30 May Local leaders announce the Allegheny County Children’s Fund Initiative
Pittsburgh, PA (May 30, 2018) – Today, a team of local citizens, leaders, and organizations announced the Our kids. Our commitment. Allegheny County Children’s Fund Initiative, a citizen-led effort to transform the way Allegheny County funds programs that are proven to ensure the wellbeing of children across the county. By using the voter referendum process, this group will work to collect more than 40,000 signatures to qualify a question for the Nov. 6, 2018, General Election ballot that would allow Allegheny County voters the opportunity to show their commitment to the region’s kids by voting the Allegheny County Children’s Fund into law.
“This is about our kids,” said Patrick Dowd, executive director, Allies for Children, and steering committee member of Our kids. Our commitment. “We believe that by giving our kids every opportunity to succeed, we’re giving our region a brighter future. Investing in our kids is an investment that will pay dividends for generations to come.”
Our kids. Our commitment. seeks to change the way the county funds efforts that are proven to ensure the health and wellbeing of kids across the county. Three specific areas proven to yield strong benefits for children and the community at large include: early childhood education, after school programs and good nutrition.
Kids who attend pre-k are more likely to succeed in school and life, while saving families, schools and tax payers money. After school programs increase school attendance, reduce drug use, and help fuel children’s passions while keeping kids and neighborhoods safe. Hunger affects learning, growth, and development. One out of every six children in Allegheny County faces hunger. (See addendum 1 for more facts and data.)
“Personally, after school programs had a huge positive impact on my life. These programs are vital to the wellbeing, education and development of our local kids,” said James Doyle, executive director, Higher Achievement Pittsburgh, and steering committee member of Our kids. Our commitment. “Without the positive role models who guided me through my adolescence, I don’t think I’d be the same person I am today.”
The Allegheny County Home Rule Charter and state law permit the residents of Allegheny County to amend the Charter by using the voter referendum process to qualify a question for an election ballot.
To qualify a question for the Nov. 6, 2018, General Election ballot, the Our kids. Our commitment. team will circulate petitions bearing the question (See addendum 2) and work to collect more than 40,000 signatures from Allegheny County voters, between June 19 and Aug. 7. Once the required number of signatures are obtained and submitted to the Allegheny County Elections Department, the question will be added to the General Election ballot on Nov. 6. If a simple majority of voters vote ‘yes,’ then the measure would pass.
If passed, the Allegheny County Children’s Fund will be established through a 0.25 millage rate increase to property taxes – an additional $25 annually on each $100,000 of assessed value. The average market value for a home in Allegheny County is approximately $137,000. For the average homeowner in Allegheny County, the increase would be less than $30 per year, including the Homestead Exemption. A 0.25 millage rate increase would generate approximately $18 million annually in revenue for the fund.
“This is an opportunity for Allegheny County to be part of what might be,” said Dave Coplan, executive director, Human Services Center Corporation, and steering committee member of Our kids. Our commitment. “The future of our society is based on children. We believe it’s time to secure funding for proven programs and help our kids reach their full potential.”
Once voted into law, the Office of the Allegheny County Children’s Fund will be established. The office will have a small staff guided by a diverse citizens’ advisory council comprised of volunteers. Together, they would formulate a strategic plan, goals and a competitive process for the distribution of the funds. Each year, the County Manager would incorporate the spending of the Allegheny County Children’s Fund into the annual budget of the County Executive, which is approved by the County Council. The fund will be financially audited by a third-party each year, and a public website will report all funding allocations to the community.
Similar funds exist in about 30 counties across the country, including 10 counties in Missouri, eight counties in Florida, San Antonio, Texas and a few rural counties in Ohio. Seattle, San Francisco and Portland also have similar funds.
“When PUMP was presented with an opportunity to be involved in an effort to create more access for kids to start learning earlier, attend after school programs and have healthier meals, we were absolutely all in,” said Lindsay Cashman, advocacy and public policy coordinator, PUMP, and steering committee member of Our kids. Our commitment. “We believe our future starts now. It’s time to make a commitment to all our kids across the county by creating the Allegheny County Children’s Fund.”
On June 19, at 11 a.m., Our kids. Our commitment. will host a kick-off signing event, where community members are invited to join the celebration and sign the petition. For a list of other signing events through Aug. 7, community members can visit www.ourkidsourcommitment.org.
“We need everyone to raise their hands and commit to supporting our kids. The Allegheny County Children’s fund will ensure that all our kids are taken care of. Let’s work together now to build a stronger community and future,” said Shenay Jeffrey, Board of Directors, advocacy and public policy committee chair, PUMP.
About Our kids. Our commitment. – The Our kids. Our commitment. Allegheny County Children’s Fund Initiative is an effort to change the way Allegheny County funds programs that are proven to ensure the wellbeing of our children across the county. For more information, visit www.ourkidsourcommitment.org.
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ADDENDUM 1: FACT SHEET
Three specific areas proven to yield strong benefits for our children and our community include: early childhood education, after school programs and good nutrition.
- 90% of brain development occurs before the age of five.
- In Allegheny County, more than half of eligible three- and four-year-olds lack access to high-quality pre-k.
- Kids who attend pre-k are more likely to succeed in school and life, while saving families, schools and taxpayers money.
- Children acquire critical socialization skills like sharing, cooperation and taking turns.
- Proven to save families and schools money by improving children’s health and school readiness, while reducing future crime.
- It’s an average savings of $26,000 per child over a lifetime.
- In Allegheny County, 72% of local parents say that after school programs keep their children safe. But not all have access – 70% of parents say they would enroll their kids in a program if it was available.
- After school programs increase school attendance, reduce drug use, and help fuel our children’s passions.
- After school programs help keep kids and neighborhoods safe.
- Kids who participate in after school programs have better social skills and self-esteem.
- In Allegheny County, one in six kids is hungry. In total, 42,000 local children lack access to enough food for a healthy life.
- Hunger affects learning, growth, and development.
- Kids who don’t have proper nutrition are twice as likely to repeat a grade level and need special education.
- Hungry children have trouble focusing in school and are 3x more likely to be suspended from school an 2x more likely to repeat a grade and need special education.
ADDENDUM 2: QUESTION ON BALLOT
“Shall the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter be amended to establish the Allegheny County Children’s Fund, funded by Allegheny County levying and collecting an additional 0.25 mills, the equivalent of $25 on each $100,000 of assessed value, on all taxable real estate, beginning January 1, 2019 and thereafter, to be used to improve the wellbeing of children through the provision of services throughout the County including early childhood learning, after school programs, and nutritious meals?”