As Pennsylvania budget negotiations get underway, a new report details the state’s investment in early childhood education. Proponents hope this will spur lawmakers to increase funding for the budget.
Governor Tom Wolf’s Final Budget Proposal includes a $70 million increase in pre-K funding. In the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children Reportthe Commonwealth ranks 14th in per capita funding, compared to 26 states with similar pre-K programs.
Despite increased support for pre-K during the pandemic, Kari King, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Childrensaid there was still work to be done as 61% of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds in the state remain unserved.
“When children have access to high-quality pre-kindergarten,” she said, “we really prepare them for kindergarten, prepare them for school with the concepts of early literacy and early numeracy, to really prepare them for lead them on this path to success throughout their education and school years.
Wolf’s preschool budget increase would go to Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Support Program, which focus on early childhood education for low-income families. The budget must be finalized by June 30.
The report included investment recommendations to improve the quality of Pennsylvania’s pre-K programs. King said supporting educators through professional development is one step.
“Recruitment and retention is a really big issue in this industry, especially since the pandemic,” she said. “So to see what we can do to help the workforce get those degrees – so the programs can be high quality, because that’s really where it shows that kids are doing better.”
An analysis of Pennsylvania’s pre-K programs by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill found that children in pre-K have significantly higher language and math skills than their peers. King said the report will be shared with General Assembly leaders and the Wolf administration.