Bradford Era: IU9 waits word on state grant money

Posted: Friday, August 28, 2015 10:00 am
By ALEX DAVIS Era Reporter
Whether the state would fund more preschool opportunities across McKean and Potter counties remains in question as the state budget impasse enters its third month next week.

Officials at the Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9 are hoping for grant money to pay for the expansion of Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts programs at four school districts and to bring programs to two other districts, said Janice Vicini, director of early intervention program at the IU9. The money is being requested from the state Department of Education.

“In the near term, without a state budget in place, state Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental grants did not go out to pre-K providers across the Commonwealth, forcing them to make the hard decision to either solicit private bridge financing, operate off reserves or other funding sources or close state-funded classrooms altogether,” said Mission: Readiness Pennsylvania State director Steve Doster, who is a partner in the Pre-K for PA Campaign effort in advocating for high-quality preschool access for all children.

It was not immediately clear which expanded and new preschool programs are operating locally. But in an interview last week with The Era, one official from Oswayo Valley School District (Shinglehouse) in Potter County said a new pre-kindergarten program would be moving forward — even without the state funding.

Leaders crafted the IU9 grant application with knowing how vital it is reach children 3- to 5-years-old, Vicini said. Research shows that 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed in those early years, she said.

“And we want to make sure that our kids in our rural areas have the same opportunities as other kids across Pa.,” Vicini said.

There is a definite need for more pre-schooling in the region, according to information provided by Doster.

As a matter of fact, more than 850 children across McKean and Potter counties do not have access to high-quality preschool, he pointed out. Breaking the data down, 591 of 1,008 children in McKean County lack access to preschool; in Potter County that number is 268 children of 400 without access to pre-kindergarten.

“The Pre-K for PA campaign believes that high-quality pre-K should be available to all children — beginning with those most in need,” he said. “To accomplish this Pennsylvania needs to aggressively ramp up its investments over the next four years by about $400 million.”

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