Westmorland County Pre-K for PA Provider Ruffsdale Center Welcomes Rep. Harhai and Rep. Dunbar to End of Year Celebration

Sen. Bartolotta Reads to Students from Community Action Southwest Head Start during Visit to Flenniken Library

Ruffsdale, PA May 26, 2016 – As priorities in the 2016-17 fiscal year budget negotiations are being identified in Harrisburg, Pre-K for PA provider Ruffsdale Center, a program of Westmoreland Community Action Head Start, celebrated the advancement of its pre-k class to kindergarten alongside PA Representative Ted Harhai and Representative George Dunbar today.

During the same time today in Carmichaels, PA State Senator Camera Bartolotta read to students from Community Action Southwest Head Start at the Flenniken Library during their visit. Community Action Southwest Head Start received Pre-K Counts expansion funds earlier this year as part of the $30 million investment in the 2015-16 state budget. This funding provides access to high-quality pre-k for more local children.

Studies show that children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not.

“The kindergarten I attended doesn’t exist anymore,” said Scott Poloff, M.Ed., Director of Children Services Westmoreland Community Action. “What we expect kids to do in kindergarten today is dramatically different and increasingly demanding.  Kids need the Head Start and pre-k preparation to enter Kindergarten ready to learn.

“So much of what we do in early childhood is about social and emotional development, and over the course of this year we have seen these kids grow and our goal is to see every kid have the same opportunity.”

Pre-K for PA providers across the state support continued investment in pre-k, and are urging the Pennsylvania legislature and the governor to expand access to thousands of at-risk kids in the final 2016-17 budget. Specifically, they are calling for $90 million in additional funding part of the 2016-17 final state budget.

“A multi-year goal for growing access to high-quality pre-k for all of the income eligible children and begin looking at pre-k affordability issues regarding middle class families must be identified as an urgent priority at the negotiating table this month,” said Blair Hyatt, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Head Start Association, a Pre-K for PA Principal Partner.

While the 2015-16 budget investment was a positive step, the fact remains that more than 120,000 income eligible 3- and 4-year-olds do not have access each year due to insufficient funding.

The 2015-16 state budget included $30 million in additional funding for PA Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance programs – expanding access to more than 6,000 at-risk children. Westmoreland County has more than 3,900 at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds, and a staggering 71 percent of them – about 2,790 children – lacked access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k last year. In Greene County, 59 percent of the more than 520 at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds lacked access last year.

Across Pennsylvania, there are more than 175,000 3- and 4-year-olds who are at-risk because they are in lower income households—70 percent of these at-risk young learners – more than 120,000 children statewide – had no access to publicly funded pre-k last year.

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. Its vision is that every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania will have access to high-quality pre-k. For more information visit www.prekforpa.org.



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