Delaware County Daily Times: Advocates Continue Call for More Pre-k State Funding
September 26, 2017 by Kevin Tustin

Even with expansion of state funds over the years, access to pre-kindergarten education is still a priority for local and state advocates.

Representatives from the Pennsylvania Principals Association, the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and local education agencies made their voices heard at Evans Elementary School in Yeadon Monday morning, calling on the state to do more to provide high quality Pre-K opportunities for families.

“We live in a state and in a society that doesn’t make a decision, doesn’t prioritize equalizing opportunity for every child,” said Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. “That starts pretty early in life with Pre-K and, regrettably, it continues through their K-to-12 experiences.

“Now is the time for the commonwealth to invest more, to ensure more children have access to high quality Pre-K.”

A new report from the Pennsylvania Principals Association says 99 percent of surveyed elementary school principals throughout the commonwealth agree that publicly-funded, high-quality Pre-K is an important tool for preparing at-risk children for kindergarten. Such an early education program is reported to have very high outcomes of age-appropriate behavior, reading readiness and ability to demonstrate early mathematical concepts. A decline in remediation and individualized education program services following a Pre-K education were also reported.

Paul Healey, president of the principals association, which represents 3,500 members, spoke about the organization’s in-house survey.

“Quite frankly, we didn’t need a survey to tell us what we already knew about what’s important in Pre-K,” Healey said. “However, it is important that our voice now is in print to support these fine efforts of the campaign.”

Healey added that principals were unanimous in identifying kids who experienced Pre-K, as opposed to those who did not.

Evans Elementary Principal Dujuana Ambrose provided her own insight on that claim.

“The children from high quality Pre-K are better equipped for success. It’s not just about having basic literacy and mathematics, those are the essentials. It’s also about academic language that is used that allows children to make connections to the lessons taught in kindergarten classrooms,” she said.

“I support stronger, meaningful investments in Pre-K so that every child … can access early learning to prepare them for a lifelong of success.”

Erinn Rinn, director of development at Today’s Child of Delaware County, said watching young children develop skills in these programs is a “marvel” at the “lightning fast transformation” in the centers up until kindergarten.

“The children think they’re going to school to have fun and play, but they don’t know that what’s actually happening is the environment is carefully designed to promote learning and develop age-appropriate behaviors,” she said. “Investments are in those children and those families … Quality Pre-K really does what the science says it does.”

Since the Pre-K for Pa. campaign launched in 2013, $90 million has been added to the state budget for Pre-K services, helping about 10,000 children, according to Benso. Still, about two-thirds of eligible preschoolers don’t have the opportunity to attend state-funded, Pre-K programs.

With payments for state programs, including Pre-K, set to end if the Legislature doesn’t approve funding sources by Sept. 30 for the state budget, Monday’s presser couldn’t have been more timely.

“The impetus is the desire to validate from local experts, our frontline education leaders,” Benso said. “The timing has nothing to do with the state budget; it’s just sort of regrettable that the timing gives you a two-fer.”

Read the article here.