Centre Daily Times: Centre County kids are benefiting from increased pre-K funding, but statewide gaps still exist
October 28, 2019 by Marley Parish

With help from a boost in state funding, what used to be empty space at the Learning Station is now home to a classroom for 3- and 4-year-olds who receive what director Lynda Mussi calls an “authentic” and high-quality early educational experience.

The increase in pre-K funding in the 2019-20 state budget — a total of $30 million in additional funding for Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance programs — led to the 3035 Enterprise Drive school receiving a $157,000 grant to create a classroom for up to 20 additional 3- and 4-year-olds.

But while Learning Station has seen a direct benefit from the increased state funding, statewide gaps in pre-K education still exist. In Pennsylvania, 56% of eligible children — 97,702 — do not have access to high-quality pre-K programs, according to Pre-K for PA. Out of the 3,019 pre-K locations eligible to participate, an additional 4,885 pre-K classrooms are still needed to reach Pre-K for PA’s 2022 goal.

“Affordable, accessible high-quality child care is important to the health of Pennsylvania’s economy and to the development of young children, so we are also advocating for more state and federal investments to increase subsidized child care opportunities and to develop the professional workforce needed to drive those programs,” said Kristen Rotz, president of the United Way of Pennsylvania.

A family-owned business, the Learning Station has been operating since the early 1980s. Wanting to provide kids with high-quality education from the baby room through kindergarten, Mussi said kids are encouraged to express their thoughts and feelings verbally as they move through the program developmentally.

“We really want them to have an authentic experience,” Mussi said — noting that 95% of learning occurs between ages 0-5. “And we try to be natural in our supplies … the clocks are hung lower, and the tables and chairs are shorter, so the kids can really see everything from their view.”

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