At the White House Summit on Early Education held this past week, the Heinz Endowments pledged $9 million to fund efforts to help children access quality early childhood education. These funds will support local endeavors such as: a statewide preschool expansion grant, advocacy effort to back universal Pre-K, called the PreK for PA campaign, and the Implementation of the 10 Recommendations of Mayor Peduto’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Early Childhood Education.

This initiative, called Invest in US, is spearheaded by the First Five Years Fund, a nonprofit formed in response to President Obama’s January 2014 challenge to Americans—elected officials, business leaders, philanthropists and the public—to turn their attention to improving early education.

More than 40 foundations and corporations pledged $330 million to the cause—with Federal grants totaling some $750 million.

In the past two years, the Heinz Endowments has awarded more than $8 million to early childhood development in Pittsburgh and across Pennsylvania. An additional $1 million was granted to support maternal and child health.

“For more than two decades,” says the Endowments’ president Grant Oliphant, “Teresa (Heinz)  has led the conversation and collective action around this most critical issue and has been a bold, dedicated and passionate champion of early childhood development.”

“We’ve really set the bar high on addressing early education in the city,” said Mayor Peduto—who spoke before the President at Wednesday’s summit—in an earlier interview with NEXT. “We can identify 5,000 children right now in the city of Pittsburgh who have no access to early childhood education.”

With the help of the Heinz Endowments, other grant makers and community leaders, Pittsburgh can be a leader in early education by committing to giving our youngest generation a boost during those key developmental years from birth to age five.