PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Early childhood education is kids in pre-school programs hoping to get a leg up in reading and math, but funding’s always an issue.

“The system we have right now is like a house of cards. When you pull one card out, it jeopardized everything that you’ve built,” said Betty Lisowski of the River Children’s Center.

In November, Allegheny County voters narrowly defeated a .25 millage increase to fund early childhood, about $25 dollars for each $100,000 of assessment that would have raised about $18 million a year.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald opposed the property tax increase but badly wants to fund early childhood and so he empaneled a group of 26 stakeholders to explore funding alternatives, and now that group is holding a series of meetings to get the public’s input on funding and other ideas.

“Some of them might include the corporate community. Might in involved philanthropy. Might involve a while lot of options,” said Fitzgerald.

But Fitzgerald says funding of Pre-K is essential.

According to studies, including one by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, if a child doesn’t learn to read at a proficient level by third grade, he or she will fall behind and will likely never catch-up, and are “all too likely to become our nation’s lowest-income, least-skilled, least-productive, and most costly citizens tomorrow.”

“And it’s knowing that being able to read and to learn that opens up the whole world to people,” Fitzgerald said.

Here’s a list of all the community meetings:

  • Thursday 6:30 p.m. at Jeron X Grayson Community Center in the Hill District
  • June 3 at The Landing Community Center in Moon 6:30 p.m.
  • June 4 at Bethel Park Community Center 6:30 p.m.
  • June 5 at Shaler North Hills Library at 6 p.m.
  • June 12 at Founders Hall Middle School in McKeesport 6:30 p.m.
  • A Spanish-language meeting June 18 at the YWCA building, Downtown. 6:30 p.m.
  • For additional information or to sign up to attend a meeting, go to www.childrensfundcommunitymeetings.org.