Reading Eagle: Promoting the Value of Pre-kindergarten Programs in Chester County

By Holly Herman 3/19/16

NORTH COVENTRY TOWNSHIP – Pointing to colorful fish swimming in a bowl, smiling 5-year-old Gabe Feltman led an entourage of public officials on a tour of his pre-Kindergarten class in North Coventry Township Friday.

“Look at the fish,” Feltman said, to the group visiting the Warwick Cedarville Center to celebrate an increase of $30 million in state funding for pre-K in the partially adopted 2015-16 budget.

“I can tell you kids have a busy day,” state Sen. John C. Rafferty Jr. noted as Gabe showed him the toys and books in the center, which is part of the Owen J. Roberts School District.

Rafferty, a Montgomery County Republican who also serves portions of Berks and Chester counties, then took a seat to read a book to 10 students before they each cut a blue ribbon in the ceremony.

Before the ceremony, Steve Doser, deputy director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a nonpartisan crime prevention organization, ran a roundtable discussion on why more funding for pre-K is necessary.

“We are hopeful that our state policymakers will come together in a bipartisan fashion to find resources to expand access to pre-K in the 2016-17 budget,” Doser said.

“We are all focused on increasing funding for pre-K,” Rafferty responded, noting that the issue is bipartisan.

The 2015-16 partially enacted state budget already includes $127 million for pre-K.

As a result, Chester County received an additional $707,225 to provide spaces for 205 more children.
The allocation includes $170,000 to add 20 spots in pre-K programs in Warwick Child Care programs in North Coventry and East Coventry townships.

Berks County received an additional $743,775 to add 211 children, and Montgomery County received $564,000 for an additional 160 children.

Statewide, more than 120,000 eligible pre-schoolers are not receiving public funding.
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan urged lawmakers to increase state aid for pre-school to reduce crime.

Hogan said that parental involvement is the key to doing well in life, noting that some children do not have parents to guide them.

Nevertheless, he said, children who go to pre-school are less likely to commit crimes.

“A review of Pennsylvania’s inmate population reveals that more than 50 percent of the inmates have not graduated from high school,” Hogan said.

The state offers two pre-K programs for low-income families.

One program, Pre-K Counts, provides funding to families under 300 percent of the poverty level, which is an annual income of $75,000.

The other program, Head Start Supplemental, provides pre-K to children in families under 120 precent of the federal poverty level, which would be an annual income of $30,000.

The federal poverty level for a family of four, is $24,300.

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