Daily Local: Chester County celebrates early education funding boost


WARWICK >> Chester County Pre-K got a boost in a big way Friday with $700,000 in new state funding and the attention of crime-fighting officials praising the value of early education.

Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan and state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist., were among the officials at Warwick Childcare Center, 16 East Cedarville Road, to cut a “Pre-K for PA” ribbon and open new classrooms.

In partnership with Owen J. Roberts School District, Warwick and other early learning providers throughout Chester County received more than $700,000 in new state funding so that 200 additional children can be given high-quality Pre-K. The grant was possible because of the inclusion of $30 million in additional pre-kindergarten funding agreed to in the partially enacted state budget.

With the new funding, Warwick Childcare Center was able to open ten more slots in one of its classrooms. In addition, they were able to expand bus routes to lower income housing complexes within the district so that children who are not be able to attend school simply because they can’t get there will no longer be denied early education.

The ongoing issues with passing a state budget created problems for early learning facilities before the recent release of state funds.

“The opening of new Pre-K council classrooms is definitely a step in the right direction but access to high quality early childhood education in Chester County still remains a challenge,” said Diana Neatrour, owner of Warwick Childcare Center.

Rafferty took time out before the ribbon cutting to address that very issue, noting that the need for expanding early childhood education has not been forgotten.

“It’s a tough year. We passed another budget Wednesday before we left Harrisburg that has an allotment for $30 million more for Pre-K. I don’t know what’s going to happen between the governor and the other chamber or what the governor’s going to do with the budget but certainly we’re going to keep trying to put more money into Pre-K,” said Rafferty.

According to Pre-K for PA, existing programs in Chester County only serve about 17 percent of eligible children.

And Chester County isn’t the only county in Pennsylvania to experience these problems. Montgomery County voiced similar concerns about making Pre-K education more available just before the school year started in August as well. Chester and Montgomery county officials have happily rallied behind the expansion of pre-kindergarten education, not only because of the educational benefits but because of early education’s effect on future crime rates.

“We start kids on paths early in life and that path will follow them the whole time,” said Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan in an interview after the ribbon cutting.

“If you start kids on the right path, then they’re going to do well in grade school, then they’re going to do well in high school, then they’re going to go to college and then they get a job. Other kids get on the wrong path. They don’t get that early education or an opportunity and they start falling behind. Already in grade school you can see kids who are falling behind and you know they’re going to have problems in high school. And then when they get to high school, they drop out. And once they drop out of high school, in today’s world, it’s going to be very hard to succeed.”

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