Representative Jordan Harris Tours Gray’s Ferry Learning Academy, Care-A-Lot Learning Center and Brightside Academy

Child Care Providers Struggle to Remain Open as the Workforce in Southeast PA Returns to Work

PHILADELPHIA, PA: (October 22, 2020) – Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA Campaign partner First Up hosted virtual classroom tours at Gray’s Ferry Learning Academy, Care-A-Lot Learning Center and Brightside Academy in Philadelphia today describing the challenges COVID-19 has caused the child care industry.  Senator Anthony Williams staff and Representative Jordan Harris both participated in the tour and discussion.

“Brightside Academy takes pride in the critical role our organization plays in providing peace of mind for families who rely on us to keep their children safe while in a nurturing and educational environment. Providers are facing unprecedented hardships, and many are at risk of closure. The current climate is not sustainable”, stated Sharen Woodley, Regional Vice President of BSA. “COVID-19 has negatively impacted Grey’s Ferry Learning Academy’s enrollment causing a significant reduction in revenues, to the tune of 45%”

Woodley offered a glimpse into the early learning center describing both visually and verbally how providers support our children, families, businesses, and are a critical component to our economic recovery. The child care industry in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania immediately needs substantially more funding so that as the state reopens, they can stay open and our workforce can return to work.

Unis Bey Owner/Director, Gray’s Ferry Learning Academy who just received her STAR 4 designation described an unsustainable situation. “Although my high-quality program has the capacity to serve and prepare 92 children for success, only two of the seven classrooms are being used and even those two classrooms are not full.”

In a study on COVID-19’s impact on Pennsylvania’s child care sector, Penn State’s Director of Institute of State and Regional Affairs reports an estimated $325 million in new costs and lost revenues for PA providers since the economic shutdown.

“Over 300 providers have closed across the state and 1,000 are at risk of closing” said Carol Austin, Executive Director of First Up, who hosted the tour. “What will happen to the 70% of PA children under the age of six who had all adults in their household in the workforce prior to the pandemic?  Those adults need child care to return to work.”

In the wake of COVID-related closures, the Pre-K for PA and Start Strong PA campaigns — representing tens of thousands of Pennsylvania families — have illustrated the urgent need for relief, as Pennsylvania’s child care providers have incurred devastating losses over the past 6+ months. Stabilizing the Commonwealth’s child care and early learning system is a necessary strategy supporting our overall economic recovery.

The Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA campaigns represent thousands of early learning providers and supporters across Pennsylvania. For more information visit and