Advocating for Students and Teachers in The Learning Center at Third Street Alliance

Nancy Frederick, director of The Learning Center, is constantly balancing the needs of the students and the teachers in the center — evaluating how to better serve the students and their families.

And since the beginning of the pandemic, Nancy has been hard at work advocating for early childhood education programs like The Learning Center.

“With the pandemic hitting our families and communities hard this past year, there was some work to do on the advocacy side of early childhood education,” Nancy said. “Some businesses were still open, yet families did not have any options for open childcare programs.”

Very early on in the pandemic, at the request of the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC) and the United Way, Nancy took part in a state-wide conference that included other early childhood education professionals, government officials, stakeholders, and media. As a result of her participation in this meeting, Nancy was contacted by local and national news media to discuss in further detail the issues facing families with young children and early childhood educational programs.

One of those reporters was from the Huffington Post, who did a story on the situation that many early childcare programs were facing and the need to help keep them open for working families both during and after the pandemic (you can read that full article at https://bit.ly/3eMnCE5).

Throughout the rest of the year, Nancy was called on to share her thoughts on a variety of issues, including changes that the Office of Child Development and Early Learning made to funding ECE programs in the state.

“I shared the need for more staff to help cover the additional cleaning and lower classroom ratios, as the CDC guidelines suggested, and the loss of funding due to the changes they put into place,” Nancy said.

Since the start of 2021, Nancy has been advocating and reaching out to many organizations and groups regarding the Education Retention Award that is no longer being offered to teachers that work at Keystone STAR facilities, such as Third Street Alliance (TSA has been awarded STAR accreditation since September 2005, and the top-level 4-STAR designation since October 2006).

The award was an incentive program for teachers and provided an annual financial bonus based on their educational attainment and calculated by college credits. According to information from 2019, a teacher working at Third Street Alliance with a CDA in early childhood education received an extra $800 a year from the state. A teacher with a bachelor’s degree in ECE earned an extra $3,000 a year through the state program.

The bonus encourages staff to continue their education and stay at the center, as well as helps to improve the quality of the classrooms.

“Of all the difficult times and year, we really want to support our teachers, retain them for the program and families’ sake, and to encourage them to continue their own professional development to receive these bonuses,” Nancy said.

In May, Nancy raised this issue during a panel hosted by the Start Strong PA campaign to voice her belief on how the state could best distribute its share of the American Rescue Plan monies to support early childhood education programs and families. It was one of 12 panels held across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for ECE professionals to share how programs across the state could best be supported with the $1.2 billion of the proposed funds from the American Rescue Plan.

“It is crucial for families and ECE providers to be heard from so that our stories are told and the need for support is apparent and taken into consideration when state and federal funds are dispersed,” Nancy said. “Parents who do not have access to high-quality, affordable child care cannot go to work. We need to advocate to ensure that we expand access to programs like ours so that families can maintain their financial stability.”

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