Original Article: Philadelphia Business Journal
“Twenty years of research has shown how well this program works to improve readiness for school and academic achievement. There are a lot of young adults in America… who are enjoying better lives because they were in that program,” Clinton said.
My organization, Diversified Community Services, recently celebrated the end of its first year with its HIPPY families. Our goal is to serve more than 180 families over the next three years and serve as a model to expand HIPPY programs across Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania. HIPPY was developed to teach low income parents to be their children’s first teachers. HIPPY works to improve readiness for school and academic achievement through role play and modeling as a method of teaching.
Diversified is very proud of the work that we do in South Philadelphia, and appreciated seeing our HIPPY program acknowledged by President Clinton’s DNC address. Diversified has a mission that focuses its efforts on behalf of children, youth, and families, especially those that are most vulnerable. As a part of our mission, we believe that our operation of two STAR 4, nationally accredited early childhood education centers is not just a boost to children, but a boost to Philadelphia’s local economy.
The Economic Opportunity Institute has noted that early childhood education is “central to the economic well-being of families, business, and communities.” Ample research shows that high quality care for young children directly affects the productivity of both the current and future workforce. This is why private sector organizations like Vanguard have made significant investments in Diversified Community Services’ HIPPY program and its growth.
Through Vanguard’s Capital for Kids Program, Vanguard has invested $200,000 into the growth of Diversified’s HIPPY program. Because Vanguard understands how important investments in early education programs like HIPPY are to business and the local economy, they encourage their members and officers to contribute a percentage of their compensation to charities like Diversified Community Services.
There are other ways for businesses to support early childhood education programs as well. The Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program is an excellent way for business to support a great education for their future workforce, as well as the children of their current workforce. The EITC is a Pennsylvania state tax credit program that allows businesses to claim 75% of its contribution to a Pre-K program, from a maximum contribution up to $750,000. The tax credit can be increased to 90% of the contribution if the business agrees to provide the same amount for two consecutive tax years. The EITC offers businesses, who cannot afford to provide on-site childcare for employees, a way to help pay for quality early childcare almost at no cost.
With the laser-beam focus on the importance HIPPY and quality early childhood education by President Bill Clinton last week, many public and private entities are trying to figure out in what ways they can be helpful. From the Mayor of Philadelphia to the Governor of Pennsylvania, the importance of quality early childhood education is rightfully at the top of everyone’s agenda. Now we need the business community to get in the game. There’s no doubt that in addition to creating measurable change for local communities, business investments in early childhood education profit the business’s bottom line as well.
Otis L. Bullock Jr. is Executive Director of Diversified Community Services in Philadelphia.