YCCF Receives $300,000 Grant from The Heinz Endowments to Support Early Childhood Educators in York

YCCF Receives $300,000 Grant from The Heinz Endowments to Support Early Childhood Educators in York

Program has already provided over $450,000 in incentives to 63 childcare providers.

(YORK, PA, August 29, 2022) – The York County Community Foundation (YCCF) is proud to accept a $300,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments to support the York County Early Childhood Educator Awards Program. To address the issue of attracting and retaining qualified childcare staff, the York County Early Childhood Educator Awards puts money directly in the pockets of teachers, showing sincere appreciation for their commitment to quality early learning for children and to continuing their own professional development.

“We are excited that The Heinz Endowments is supporting the York County Early Childhood Educator Award Program, and considering it for replication in Allegheny County,” stated Jane M. Conover, MSW, President and CEO of YCCF. “In 1999, YCCF and The Heinz Endowments partnered to improve early childhood education in York County by supporting a county-wide plan to improve access, quality, and affordability of childcare.  We are thrilled to come together again with the Endowments on our common goal of expanding quality early learning opportunities so children can be prepared to succeed in school.”

Local members of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission (ELIC) initiated the York County Educator Awards program after a similar program at the state was discontinued.  The program makes financial awards available to early learning centers based on their Keystone STARS certification level and the educational attainment of their staff.  The goal is to secure enough quality childcare spots to meet the needs of York County employees with children.  The program focuses on retaining skilled childcare teachers by providing financial incentives to stay in their jobs and advance their education.

“For three decades the business and civic communities of York County have partnered to make high quality early childhood education a priority,” said Peter Brubaker, one of six local members of the ELIC.  “While progress has been made, too many of our young children do not have access to high quality facilities which has an impact on our workforce both today and in the future.  Attracting and retaining quality teachers is key to providing our young children with safe, enriching early learning programs.  Furthermore, by providing reliable care for the children of working parents we decrease turnover and boost on-the-job productivity.”

In the first year the program was paid for through a mix of public and private funding including YCCF, several local foundations and individuals and the York County Board of Commissioners. The plan is to expand the funding sources in the future. Child Care Consultants administers the application process and the distribution of the awards.  YCCF hosts an oversight committee to monitor results.

“In its first year, the Early Childhood Educator Awards distributed $459,000 to 63 home-based family providers, groups, and childcare centers reaching 311 educators throughout 22 zip codes in York County,” shared Christy S. Renjilian, MSW, Executive Director of Child Care Consultants.  “This will serve as baseline data so that we can track changes in retention and attraction rates at the participating centers to demonstrate that the program is achieving its goals.”

York County’s 2020 Economic Action Plan identified the lack of quality, reliable and affordable childcare as a major barrier to attracting and retaining a stable workforce.  In 2022, employers struggle to fill vacant positions in a highly competitive marketplace while childcare centers are closing due to their inability to hire staff.

The primary challenge is the low wages typical in the early childhood industry that make it difficult to attract and retain qualified staff.  The average childcare teacher earns $10 per hour and is responsible not only for keeping children safe but also for helping them develop and be ready for kindergarten.  The average salary for a lead teacher in Pennsylvania is $22,500.   Childcare centers have difficulty raising salaries because they know that there is a limit in how much families can afford to pay.

In Pennsylvania, the four-star Keystone STAR continuous quality improvement system designates childcare quality from STAR 1 through STAR 4. As programs move up in quality level, lead teachers must have early childhood education degrees.

YCCF is focusing its grantmaking on helping lower-income people achieve lasting financial security.  Quality childcare is critical to a child’s development and to a parent’s ability to sustain employment so the whole family can thrive.

On Wednesday, September 21 at 8 a.m., YCCF is hosting an online conversation around early childhood education as part of their Together We Thrive series.

Andrea Heberlein, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania ELIC, will talk about the state of the sector in PA, in York specifically, and how communities are addressing the challenges facing the industry. Peter Brubaker, member of the Pennsylvania ELIC, will talk about York’s local educator awards program as one of the solutions to the challenge of recruiting and retaining teachers. Lastly, Brian Grimm, President, and CEO of York Day Nursery, will speak about how centers are innovating to serve more children. You can register to attend at https://yccf.org/together-we-thrive/.

The Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission was created by executive order in 2008.  The Commission consists of 50 senior level business leaders across the Commonwealth who prioritize public/private investments in early learning and increased access to affordable, quality childcare.  The Commission’s work advancing high quality early learning produces positive outcomes for children, families, businesses, and Pennsylvania’s economy. Learn more about our work at https://paearlylearning.com/ 

The Heinz Endowments seeks to help our region thrive as a whole and just community and, through that work, to model solutions to major national and global challenges. We are devoted to advancing our vision of southwestern Pennsylvania as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Our work is supported by reliable data based on equitable, results-focused goals to cultivate a world where all are treated with fairness and respect and have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential.

York County Community Foundation creates a vibrant York County by engaging donors, providing community leadership, and investing in high-impact initiatives while building endowment for future generations. York County Community Foundation holds more than 630 endowed funds and assists donors and nonprofits in reaching their charitable goals. The Community Foundation granted $6.5 million in 2021 throughout York County and beyond, and stewards approximately $211 million in assets.