By GEEARS for Saporta Report
At a six p.m. reception on September 5th, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens spoke to about 50 local leaders sipping post-work cocktails and feeling festive.
“As you know,” Mayor Dickens said to the group, “I issued an historic challenge to Atlantans last year. I urged our private foundations, business leaders, and philanthropists—in other words, you—to make a first-of-its-kind, $20 million investment in our city’s early childhood education system. And you all stepped up! In the course of only one year, that $20 million—more, in fact!—poured in. PAACT: Promise All Atlanta Children Thrive joined my office to make this vision a reality and it continues to be an honor to work with them.”
Through the windows of the 26th floor room where the group was gathered, the skyline looked dramatic in the sunset. It was the perfect backdrop for this celebration of the Mayor’s PAACT Commitment. The City of Atlanta, after all, was the common passion that had brought these diverse partners together.
PAACT, which is led by GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, was the host of this donor appreciation reception, and with good reason. PAACT is a convener of public and private entities who work together to improve child care quality, increase access to such care, and build capacity to serve families’ health and well-being needs. To raise and disseminate this $20 million investment, PAACT brought together several implementation partners. Together, they’ve crafted projects that will serve three operating strategies. . .
Strategy #1: Child Care Quality and Capacity-Building
The Project: The PAACT Repair and Renovation Grant Program, which will award grants of up to $75,000 to 60 Atlanta-based child care programs to improve the quality of their facilities.
Strategy #2: Child Care Affordability and Access
The Project: The APS-funded PAACT Parent-Child Success Scholarship Initiative, which will provide 165 child care scholarships to the children of qualifying Atlanta Public Schools employees and The PAACT Scholarship powered by Quality Care for Children’s BOOST, a separate program that benefits any City of Atlanta family.
Strategy #3: Early Childhood Workforce Recruitment and Retention
The Project: Early Childhood Champions Teacher Bonus Program, which gives early educators access to retention bonuses and compensated professional development.
All of these projects are well underway. With the help of the implementation partners, child care providers have submitted Repair and Renovation grant applications, which are currently being awarded. A portion of the APS scholarships have been granted with many more to come soon. (These scholarships augment the ones already being awarded to families in the city of Atlanta by the robust PAACT Scholarship Powered by BOOST program.) And early educators will have this school year to complete state-approved, literacy-centered professional development courses, earning a $500 bonus. They’ll receive another $500 if they remain employed in the same child care program throughout the year.
Some would call this broad, active deployment of these funds closure; an ambitious promise kept.
But anybody who knows this group of partners knows they won’t rest on their laurels for long. Mayor Dickens is only two years into a term in which he devoted 2022 to the Mayor’s PAACT Commitment and declared 2023 The Year of the Youth.
And, as GEEARS’ Executive Director, Mindy Binderman, reminded the donors on September 5th, “PAACT has already achieved so much but this next phase of implementation is where we are really poised to show our impact.”
PAACT Director, Shawnell Johnson, agrees.
“This mission needs sustained support so that PAACT, the City of Atlanta, and our many partners can continue to target areas of need,” she says. “With ever more creative solutions, every family in our city could share equitable access to high quality child care and early learning.”