UWP Honored to Join as Principal Partner with Pre-K for PA Campaign

UWP is pleased to announce our partnership with the Pre-K for PA campaign! This is the first year we have joined the campaign as a principal partner, but have long been supporters of their efforts.  We are honored to advocate for early childhood education and bring more awareness to the benefits of high-quality pre-k in the educational development of Pennsylvania’s children.

The campaign’s vision is to ensure all children are able to enter school ready to succeed by making high-quality pre-k accessible to every 3- and 4- year old in Pennsylvania.  The goal is that by 2022, every at-risk child will have access to a high-quality pre-k program and middle-income families will more easily afford these services for their children.  It will take a significant investment from the state to ensure this goal can be reached and UWP, along with the Pre-K for PA campaign’s other partners, are certain this can be achieved through education and a commitment from our state lawmakers.

In the months to come, UWP will be sharing various information on the benefits high-quality pre-k provide Pennsylvania’s children, so please continue to follow our social media channels, as well as our other communications, such as UWP’s Monthly E-Letter (you can sign-up here) for ways to engage in this essential campaign.  If you would like to join the Pre-K for PA campaign, you can do so here.

Let’s LIVE UNITED to fight for the education of every child in every community throughout this commonwealth!

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Principals Throughout PA Agree Pre-K Makes a Difference

In a newly released report, the Pennsylvania Principals Association, in partnership with the Pre-K for PA Campaign, conducted a statewide survey to gauge how principals in elementary schools across Pennsylvania feel about high-quality pre-k and its importance in building the necessary foundation for children entering kindergarten with the tools to succeed.

With overwhelming results, more than 97% of elementary school principals agree high-quality pre-k is vital for the success of kindergarten students as they move throughout grades.  The responses from the statewide survey were from a wide-mix of school districts, including rural, urban, and suburban.

Research has proven the impacts access to high-quality pre-k has on our children.  Some of the impacts principals reported noticing from those students who participate in a high-quality pre-k program include age appropriate behavior, reading readiness, a demonstration of early numeracy concepts, a reduced need for remediation, and a reduction in IEP services.  Additional research has shown access to pre-k is especially beneficial for low-income students.

United Way of Pennsylvania is proud to partner with the Pre-K for PA campaign to bring awareness to the need of high-quality pre-k programs throughout the Commonwealth.  With continued investments in this work, there is no doubt our students will improve their academic success.  However, we are faced with a challenge of providing these programs to those in need.

Approximately 64 percent, or 2 in 3, eligible preschoolers do not have the opportunity to attend a publicly funded, high -quality pre-k program.  Nearly 420 of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts enroll a kindergarten class where 40 percent or more children who are eligible for high-quality pre-k do not have the opportunity.  According to the report, there are only 32 commonwealth school districts where 80 percent or more kindergarten children who are eligible for publicly funded, high-quality pre-k had the opportunity to attend.

UWP and the Pre-K for PA campaign will continue to fight for our children to have the access they need to enter kindergarten ready to learn.  With continued increased investments into pre-k and head start programs we can begin to close the gap between those who are struggling to get the jump start they need to be successful students.  We encourage you to read the report and stay informed on efforts to give every Pennsylvania child the opportunity to attend a high-quality pre-k program.  You can sign-up for the Pre-K for PA campaign here.

 

Insider Experience- Melissa Anese UWP Summer Intern!

Reflecting back on my entire internship, I feel like it’s been far more than a summer. Here at United Way of Pennsylvania, I hit the ground running. I remember in my first week going to meetings about community schools and sitting in on UWW webinars. I even made my first guest appearance in the Capitol during week one. I was expose to the budget season and what it takes to advocate on behalf of a cause. Informing legislators about 2-1-1 seemed like a no-brainer until you compile that alongside politics.

Shadowing Maggie in the Capitol really gave me the insider’s view into how successful advocates work. You have to know the lay of the land, all the legislators by face, and their staff. At first, it all was quite overwhelming, but as you get familiar with the whole process, it actually makes you feel like you somewhat know what’s up.

I feel like all of my accomplishments have come within the last month or so. In June, I laid out the conference program, which was really just the practice round for everything else I was going to do. Between legislator list updates and other tedious work, I became ready to devise my own projects. During the internship, I produced three main works which I can proudly call my own:

Advocacy Toolkit—The advocacy toolkit serves as a resource for Local United Way members to aid them in advocacy efforts. Establishing a connection with your local representative up at the state level creates a very smooth connection in times where you need legislative support. This toolkit was designed with tips and tricks in mind alongside what United Way’s expectations for LUWs are and what United Way of Pennsylvania has to offer for its members.

United Way of Pennsylvania Membership Directory for Legislators—This has probably been my favorite project so far. The Membership Directory is for legislators so they can see what their United Way is up to and what types of efforts and programs are being made around the Commonwealth. Each UWP member has their own page explaining their vision, mission, key focuses, programs they support, and what kind of work they are up to. It’s another legislative tool that manifests itself as almost a quick reference guide to PA United Ways. It also features advertisements from local community partners of member United Ways so legislators can see some of the real world impact United Way has had.

UWW Marketing Refresher Webinar—This project demanded a lot of digging from me and brought out my creative mind. Alongside UWW’s 2017 credo update came new marketing strategies and materials. I decided to host a webinar refreshing members on what exactly those changes are, how to readapt to the new messaging, and resources that are out there for them to utilize.

Though these projects feel like a huge part of my internship, they came along swimmingly in the grand scheme of my daily work. There is a lot to say when it comes to non-profit advocacy, especially when you’re heavily into public policy work. My internship here at United Way of Pennsylvania has taught me a lot about the real life way of advocacy and getting things accomplished. The internship has also taught me a lot about my design skills. Mostly, this internship has aided me in professional growth, experience, and has only furthered my pursuit of advocacy work. Thank you, Kristen, Maggie, Lois, and all of those LUW members I met along the way who showed me how cool you cats really are—the faces of non-profit work, the hand-raisers, the game-changers, LIVE UNITED.

Pre-K Investments Make Sense for a Better Future for our Children

Investments into early childhood education is a pathway for a better tomorrow for our children, our state, and our future.  Recently, the Council for a Strong America, a national, bipartisan nonprofit uniting five organizations comprised of law enforcement leaders, retired admirals and generals, business executives, pastors, and prominent coaches and athletes, released a report highlighting how pre-k is the key to boosting school success and cutting prison costs in Pennsylvania.

The report goes into depth on the societal benefits that Pennsylvania and our country can see with investments into early childhood education. Providing at-risk kids with high quality early learning programs will contribute to less crime and incarceration in the future.  Not only is this better for our children, it saves our state money in the long run.  In fact, for every disadvantaged child that participates in a high-quality pre-k program, there is an average “profit ” of more than $29,000 to society for each child served.  Governor Wolf proposed a $75 million investment into Pre-K and Head Start programs for the 2017-18 budget, which would give 8,400 children the opportunity to attend a Pre-K program.  If that investment goes through, and based on the cost-figure presented in the report on realized profit, Pennsylvania could have a return of more than $244 million over the lifetime of the 8,400 children being helped.

While cost-savings is also a goal for states, the positive outcomes with investment into early learning don’t stop there. The report shows children who participate in Pre-K have fewer behavior problems, better school outcomes, increased reading and math scores, fewer dropouts, less crime, and are less likely to end up in prison. The best thing we can do for our children and our state is to invest in early learning!

Read more about the benefits of Pre-K investment in the report.

 

UWP Supports Pre-K Investments

High quality Pre-K and Head Start help set kids on a path to success. Those who don’t get to attend these programs are set up to fall behind their peers before they ever step foot in a Kindergarten classroom. And we know that kids from low income families are much less likely to attend Pre-K programs than kids from higher income families. Access and affordability for high quality programs are obstacles for parents of young children in all parts of our state.

While PA has funded Pre-K programs since 2003, we are still not keeping pace with the investments other states are making.  Pennsylvania ranks in the bottom half of per capita investments for preschool aged children to attend comparable publicly funded, high quality Pre-K programs.  PA’s per capita commitment is less than $700.  In 18 other states and the District of Columbia, taxpayers invest more in high quality Pre-K for their kids. This includes many of our neighboring states such as New York, New Jersey, Maryland and West Virginia. United Way believes we need to invest more in PA’s young learners.

The Pre-K for PA campaign recently released a report highlighting much of the research around Pre-K and how Pennsylvania measures up to other states.   You can view the report here.

Volumes of research has shown the positive impacts that high quality early childhood education has for children over their lifetime. Research has shown that ninety percent of a child’s brain development occurs from birth to age 5. These early years greatly influence educational, behavioral, and economic outcomes throughout a person’s life.  High-quality Pre-K is an essential part of this development, yet 64 percent of Pennsylvania’s 3 and 4 years olds are unable to attend a high-quality Pre-K program.

The United Way network in our state is doing its part to invest donor dollars in high quality early childhood education, but we know we alone cannot meet the needs of all of PA’s kids. This is why we advocate for more state taxpayer dollars to be invested in high quality Pre-K and Head Start programs. We support an increase of $75 million in the 2017-2018 state budget. We know that investing today will lead to a job-ready, educated workforce tomorrow.  It means more children in PA will have the skills necessary to reach for the stars and grab their dreams.  And it’s a smart investment, because for every dollar PA invests in high-quality Pre-K, there is a return of $4 in savings and benefits in the form of social services, reduced crime, and increased earning power.

Educating Pennsylvania’s youth and providing opportunities for growth and success are staples for United Way of Pennsylvania’s advocacy and our mission.  In order to provide these opportunities UWP, along with our United Way network, invest our efforts to bring awareness and funding to Pre-K and Head Start programs throughout the commonwealth.  We are proud to partner with many others who are stepping up for young learners, including business leaders, law enforcement, the military, school administrators, and the Pre-K for PA campaign. We hope that Pennsylvania’s budget for 2017-2018 will provide an additional $75 million for high quality early childhood education.

Let’s Celebrate PA 2-1-1 Day!

February 11th is just another day for many people, but for the United Way network it is a celebration of PA 2-1-1 Day.

2-1-1 is like 4-1-1 but for health, human services and disaster relief. 2-1-1 was designated for nationwide use as an information and referral phone line by the Federal Communications Commission in 2000.  PA 2-1-1 was established in 2011 and covers over 85% of Pennsylvanians.  That number will be growing in May when six, of the remaining twelve PA counties currently not covered by 2-1-1, come on board.

The 2-1-1 system is funded by a combination of United Way support, grants and private contributions, and contracts.  In Pennsylvania, the United Way of Pennsylvania and the non-profit, PA2-1-1, are partners supporting this community-strengthening service.

2-1-1 can be used for a multitude of services. Anything from where you can donate your unused man cave couch to tax assistance preparation to job placement and much more.  When you dial 2-1-1 you will have a trained representative answer the phone who has access to a statewide database with information from community programs to government assistance for your needs.

PA 2-1-1 believes every Pennsylvanian should have access to a happy and healthy life.  Sometimes we get down on our luck and need some extra help…  2-1-1 is the perfect place to turn to for that help. In fact, in 2016 over 160,000 contacts came in to our six 2-1-1 regional call centers across the Commonwealth either through phone, chat, or text.  From those contacts, there were over 200,000 referrals made where people could find the help they were looking for.  If you or anyone you know is in need of a little extra help, please ask them to dial 2-1-1.

To find out some more information on 2-1-1 please take a look at their website.

Help us celebrate today as PA 2-1-1 Day!!

Celebrating EITC Awareness Day!

The Earned Income Tax Credit is the most effective poverty-fighting tool in the United States Tax Code. But as much as 20 percent of the population who qualifies for this tax credit does not know they are eligible and the credits could put thousands back in their pocket each year.

If you received income from working for someone or from running your own business or farm, you might qualify. You also must be a U.S. citizen for the entire tax year with a social number for yourself, and your spouse or children, if applicable. There are income limits which vary by household type, so read more about that here.

In Pennsylvania, 919,000 people claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit for tax year 2015. The average refund received by a Pennsylvanian was $2,271. That means the working people of our state claimed a total of $2.1 billion to support their families.

What do these dollars mean to working families? Research has shown most EITC refund recipients spend at least a portion of their refund immediately. Research also demonstrates that the funds are spent for a variety of reasons, including purchase and repair for cars that get people back and forth to work, clothes for their kids, housing expenses, and paying down credit card debt. Many families also bank a portion of their refund for emergencies.

United Way helps families with an annual income less than $54,000 to access these credits through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs in many communities. VITA allows to get your taxes prepared for free by a trained volunteer. United Way also provides myfreetaxes.com, powered by H&R Block, and this is an online service available to anyone with an income of $64,000 or less to file their taxes for free. Seniors also can access free basic tax preparation in many communities. More information is available on UWP’s web site and you can find out the main contact point for VITA programs in most counties here.

This tax season, we need your help in two ways:

  • Advocate to Expand the EITC. We know EITC works, yet some working Americans are excluded from the powerful, proven impacts of the EITC.  In fact, about 7.5 million Americans, and 554,000 Pennsylvanians among them, are actually taxed into poverty largely because they are ineligible for the EITC or the EITC is too small. We can change that by raising our voices together – learn more and take action.
  • Spread the Word – Help family and friends connect to the EITC. One in five who are eligible for the EITC are leaving money on the table – money that can make a big difference in paying bills and putting food on the table. Anyone earning $64,000 or less in 2016 can do their taxes for free at com and can connect any credits for which they are eligible.

By connecting local community members like Jesse to existing resources and advocating to expand what works, you can make a difference today.  Please join us and #LiveUnited.