Mayor Peduto announces early childhood education panel to apply for grant

Mayor Bill Peduto has named a 20-member “Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Early Childhood Education” to try to help secure a federal grant for preschool education.

Earlier this month, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced a $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition on the day he visited the Hill District. He said that Pennsylvania could compete for up to $20 million for a year, potentially renewable to cover four years.

In a news release, Mr. Peduto said, “Pittsburgh must keep developing as a city of learning — a city committed to exemplary education of its citizens from birth to career and from career to lifelong learning — and providing early childhood education is essential to that development.”

Also in the news release, Curtiss Porter, the city’s chief education and neighborhood reinvestment officer, said, “The city will be characterized by its commitment to high quality early education. Citizens of Pittsburgh will be definitively energized by educational opportunities that expand at every age.”

The panel, which was formed by executive order, has three co-chairs, each of whom chairs a subcommittee: city Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, politics; Michelle Figlar, executive director, Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children, policy; and Marge Petruska, senior program director, Heinz Endowments, partnerships.

Some of the other members are from the Pittsburgh Public Schools, including Superintendent Linda Lane; board member Bill Isler, who also is president, Family Communications; and Carol Barone-Martin, executive director, early childhood education.

Other educators include Barb Minzenberg, deputy secretary, state Department of Education, and Debbie Gallagher, Early Head Start director, Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center.

The list also includes leaders from nonprofit organizations, foundations and government.

Applications are due Oct. 14, with awards to be announced in December.

According to a U.S. Department of Education news release, the new grants are intended to help states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in “building, developing and expanding voluntary, high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities for children from low- and moderate-income families.”

Earlier this year, the mayor named an education task force to study Pittsburgh Public Schools. That group had four scheduled meetings but has canceled some.

Its deadline for making recommendations was extended.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: or 412-263-1955. First Published August 25, 2014 4:40 PM

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