Senator Majority Whip Senator Pat Browne, co-chair of the Early Childhood Education Caucus, joined Governor Corbett at a press conference yesterday (January 30) at which the Governor announced a $10 million increase in funding for the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program in the 2014-15 budget proposal that will be unveiled next week.
“This is great news for the 1,670 additional Pennsylvania pre-school children who will be provided access to high-quality early learning services,” Senator Browne said. “This is a step that the Early Childhood Education Caucus strongly supports and has been advocating for. We have sent letters to the Governor urging increased state support for these vital programs and it is gratifying that we will soon see a substantial new infusion of state money.”
The bi-partisan, bi-cameral Early Childhood Education Caucus – the largest legislative caucus in Pennsylvania with over 127 members – was created in 2010 to support high-quality early childhood care and education programs in Pennsylvania that promote health and educational development for our at-risk children.
The additional $10 million would bring total increased investment in Pre-K Counts since 2011 to $13.6 million or a 16.3 percent increase. Pre-K Counts provides research-based, high-quality pre-kindergarten opportunities to at-risk children across the commonwealth by leveraging existing early education services in school districts, Keystone STARS childcare programs, Head Start and licensed nursery schools.
Many scientific and well-recognized studies show that investments in early childhood education programs, especially for at-risk children, earn seven to 16 dollars for every dollar invested.
“These programs help more of our children perform at grade level, graduate from high school, succeed in college and earn more as adults,” Senator Browne said. “Those are the kinds of results that make a difference not only for those children, but also for our schools in the short-term and our society in the long-run. These worthy investments will continue to pay huge dividends to Pennsylvania communities and our state’s overall economic well being, while lessening the burden on taxpayers.”
The Pre-K Counts program is designed for children who are between age 3 and the entry age for kindergarten; are at risk of school failure due to considerations such as English language learning or special needs; and are living in families earning up to 300 percent of the federal income poverty level, such as a family of two, earning $46,530.
This funding increase proposed for Pre-K Counts will help to supplement a $51.7 million Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant awarded to Pennsylvania in December 2013. Prior funding in the last three years increased investments to Pre-K Counts, Head Start and early intervention programs by $46.5 million, serving an additional 11,000 children.