Lancaster Newspaper: Manheim Township School District unveils new pre-K classroom at Brecht Elementary School

October 31, 2022 by Ashley Stalnecker

Manheim Township School District celebrated the opening of its newest pre-K classroom at Brecht Elementary School on Monday, while local leaders emphasized the need for additional pre-K classrooms throughout Lancaster County.

Thanks to the inclusion of an additional $79 million in pre-K funding in the 2022-23 state budget, Manheim Township School District opened its fourth pre-K classroom last week through Owl Hill Learning Center, adding 18 seats to its overall count. The district also has three 20-student pre-K classrooms at Bucher Elementary School.

Yet, the county and Pennsylvania as a whole are still in need of high-quality pre-K care.

In Lancaster County, 77% of 8,610 3- to 4-year-old income eligible children do not have access to high quality pre-K care. That’s a rate slightly higher than the 66% of 167,470 eligible children without access to high quality pre-K care statewide. Income eligible children are those in families making 300% or below the federal poverty level or a four-family income of $83,250 or lower.

High quality pre-K care is defined by Pre-K for PA as programs with teachers who have obtained a degree that includes early childhood training – a requirement for all publicly funded pre-K programs. Pre-K for PA is a nonprofit with the goal of providing high quality pre-K care for every 3- and 4-year-old child in Pennsylvania.

After a ribbon-cutting for the new classroom at Brecht Elementary, Mary Ann Garrett, CEO of Owl Hill Center, said it’s up to legislators to provide the funding necessary for more classrooms.

“Districts are becoming more and more open to create capacity to serve pre-K,” Garrett said. “The legislature has to provide the slots.”

Republican state Sen. Scott Martin said he’s in favor of directing more funding to pre-K education as the state did with the 2022-23 budget. Martin represents the 13th Senate District and is chair of the state Senate Education Committee.

“For us, obviously, the big thing is the funding,” Martin said. “Every time we can get an increase, that sizable in funding is going to help break into those waiting lists…. We got to keep that momentum going and keep getting new dollars that can go to these formulas from pre-K all the way up through our seniors in high school. All our educational entities will benefit from that.”

Read the full article here.