York Dispatch: Wolf wants additional $60M for early education

February 4, 2016

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday proposed an additional $60 million in state funding for early childhood education for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The announcement comes on the heels of his proposal to up state education funding by $200 million for 2015-16, but before the completion of the current fiscal year’s long-stalled state budget.

The additional funding for next year’s budget, Wolf said in a press release, is contingent upon lawmakers passing the bipartisan budget compromise bill that fell apart at the end of December, as each investment is intended to build on the one prior.

Wolf had originally hoped to put $120 million in state funds toward early childhood education for the 2015-16 budget, an amount he halved over the course of the negotiation process. The partial budget he signed in late December added only $30 million, though he hopes to get to the $60 million figure by the time the final budget deal passes, according to the press release. Should lawmakers agree to a total of $120 million over the next two years, an additional 14,000 slots would become available to Pennsylvania 3- and 4-year-olds through the Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program.

“We have a choice in Pennsylvania. We must choose a path that funds our schools, eliminates our deficit, and puts Pennsylvania back on track,” Wolf said during a press conference in Philadelphia. “I believe that Pennsylvania should be among the many states that provide universal pre-kindergarten for children, and I will work to make this a reality.”

Only 30 percent of Pennsylvania children in families earning up to three times the federal poverty level are enrolled in high-quality pre-K programs, a percentage which is significantly smaller in York County.

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