CHILD CARE IN CRISIS | Many advocating for ‘high-quality’ early childhood education

Leah Spangler, CEO of The Learning Lamp, is an advocate for early childhood education, especially due to the benefits such programs provide.

“Having access to quality child care and preschool ensures that children build the foundational skills they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond,” she said. “That includes things like pre-reading and math skills and social-emotional development.”

However, Pennsylvania lacks a sufficient number of programs to match the need, data show. According to advocacy group Start Strong PA, just 42% of the nearly 7,000 providers throughout the commonwealth meet the state’s standards for a high-quality program.

In Pennsylvania, child care organizations are graded using the Keystone STARS (standards, training/professional development, assistance, resources and supports) system, which has been around since 2002.

Through this voluntary system, the facilities are provided with one to four stars, which represent a program’s quality (four being the best rating) based on how safe and respectful the environment is and if the children are learning important lessons or skills “to support their current and future successes in school and in life,” according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

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