Governor Tom Corbett today previewed a 2014-15 budget proposal that will increase funding in the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program by $10 million, allowing approximately 1,670 additional Pennsylvania pre-school children to access high-quality early learning.
The additional $10 million would bring total increased investment in Pre-K Counts under the Corbett Administration to $13.6 million, or 16.3 percent.
"By investing in quality early learning programs, especially for our at-risk children, we can produce better outcomes for children later in life, helping them to be more prepared for any path they take," Corbett said. "During my time in office, more children than ever before have enrolled in high-quality early learning programs."
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.
Corbett made the announcement following a tour of East Pennsboro KinderCare, a National Association for the Education of Young Children accredited and Keystone STARS 4-Star center, as well as a Pre-K Counts grantee.
"As the largest provider of early care and education in the state, Knowledge Universe/KinderCare can speak first-hand to the difference the state's investments in quality early education make for children," said Kristin Pool, center director at East Pennsboro KinderCare. "Thanks to Pre-K Counts, we are able to guarantee that all children receive a quality preschool education whether they are from an affluent or low-income household."
The governor was invited to tour the center by District Attorney Dave Freed, a representative of the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids initiative. Terry Bossert, Range Resources, also spoke on behalf of the Early Learning Investment Commission. The two organizations emphasized the positive impacts that high quality early learning has in helping children get the right start in life to avoid later crime and violence, as well as, in preparing children to later enter the workforce of tomorrow.
Corbett was also joined for the announcement by local legislators, Senator Pat Vance and Representative Glen Grell, as well as Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq and Department of Public Welfare Deputy Secretary Barbara Minzenberg.
"Children in high-quality early learning programs enter kindergarten better prepared to learn, require less special education services and graduate from high school prepared to be successful," said Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq.
"Through our unique set of programs including Keystone STARS and Governor Corbett's Rising STARS Initiative, Child Care Works, Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, we lead the country in early learning initiatives that provide and help nurture high quality early learning in Pennsylvania," said DPW Deputy Secretary Barb Minzenberg.
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.
The proposed funding announced today 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 under the Corbett Administration increased investments to Pre-K Counts, HeadStart and early intervention programs by $46.5 million, serving an additional 11,000 children.
Governor Corbett will provide more details about his full 2014-15 budget proposal in early February.