LATROBE, PA (June 2, 2021) – Latrobe Kinder-Schull welcomed PA State Senator Kim Ward and local leaders today for a virtual tour and conversation on the challenges of providing pre-k during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local leaders spoke to Senator Ward about the continued need to serve the more than 2,195 eligible children across Westmoreland County who still lack access to this once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity.

“You don’t have to sell me on the importance of early education, I’m already sold on that,” Senator Ward said. “I think if we are not taking care of our young kids, we are derelict in our duty, if we’re not giving them the best start that we can.”

Eva Wood, Director at Latrobe Kinder-Schull offered a glimpse into life at an early learning center during COVID—describing both visually and verbally how providers have been supporting our children, families, and businesses during this unique year. Joining her in the discussion were Briana Tomack, President & CEO at Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Chamber of Commerce, Shirley Hough, Director at Our Buddy’s Place, Mary Anna Pitner, Director at SPHS Child Learning Center and Lindsey Ramsey and Cristina Codario at Trying Together.

“We need to help childcare and preschool programs reach high quality, and in order to do that there are financial burdens that have to be hurdled,” said Wood. “I think with providing that financial support, facilities will be able to reach those standards.”

Speakers made it clear that despite the challenges associated with COVID, early care and education is working and is supported by the Latrobe community. Briana Tomack, who participated in the discussion, offered her unique business perspective, and agreed that high quality early learning promotes not just the hard skills like math, reading, writing and science—but the increasingly important soft skills—communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.

“Kids that attend high quality early learning are more likely to succeed, stay on track academically, graduate from high school, pursue higher education career training and become productive workers,” said Tomack. “This is why many business leaders across Pennsylvania are supportive of early learning iniatives.”

A new study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill confirmed that the commonwealth’s investment in pre-k is paying dividends for the children fortunate enough to access pre-k through Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts program. In language and math skills, the study showed that these kids outperformed their kindergarten peers who did not enjoy access—an advantage that equated to four to five months of learning gains, which is a substantial difference in development at that age.

Governor Wolf’s proposed 2021-22 PA budget includes a $25 million increase for Pre-K Counts and $5 million increase for the Head Start State Supplemental Assistance Program, which continues the tradition of expanding access to high quality pre-k. This new funding will allow 3,271 additional children to enroll in these high-quality early learning programs.

Pre-K for PA is an issue campaign supported by individuals and organizations across Pennsylvania who believe that investing in our children is the right choice and an urgent necessity. Our vision is that every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania will have access to high-quality pre-k. For more information

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