Wilkes-Barre Times Leader: Letter to the Editor: Expand Pennsylvania’s Families’ Access to Pre-Kindergarten Programs

As a parent whose children benefited from a high-quality pre-kindergarten program, I know firsthand how it can help young learners and why Pennsylvania’s leaders need to increase funding for it.

My two boys had the opportunity to attend Luzerne County Head Start during the 2014-15 school year at the Back Mountain Center. The staff made this such a rewarding and educational experience for them. It is reassuring to know that they are not only well taken care of, but they are making new friends and experiencing new things in a fun learning environment.

I have had the opportunity to spend time in the classroom with my kids. This gave me a chance to see how they interact in the school environment as well as get to know their teachers. I attend Parent Committee meetings at the center, where we participate in planning activities for the center and classrooms.

During the most recent school year, I had the privilege of serving on the Policy Council. One parent is elected from each center of Head Start and Early Head Start to help make decisions within the Luzerne County Head Start program. Through my experiences, I have learned over the past year that Head Start is not only there for the children, but also offers support to the families. In addition to the community resources, they also assist parents who wish to obtain their GEDs.

The Back Mountain staff have been great to work with. The family worker is easy to talk to and very approachable when you have questions. My boys absolutely love their teachers and felt comfortable and welcome in their classroom environments. As a mom, it feels good to have my boys rush me out of the house in the morning so they can get to school.

My 5-year-old learned to write his name, identify his numbers and letters, and enhanced his independence and social skills. The Head Start experience, and working with the teachers to help him achieve his goals, has prepared him for kindergarten and a successful future. My 4-year-old will return for his second year with Head Start, and I can’t wait to see what new and exciting things this school year will bring!

There’s plenty of research proving high-quality pre-k reduces the need for special education and makes it less likely a child will repeat a grade or drop out of school. But almost 70 percent of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds don’t have access to it.

Gov. Tom Wolf proposed increasing funding for the state’s high-quality pre-k programs by $120 million, which would’ve allowed another 14,000 children to benefit. The budget lawmakers approved increased funding by $30 million to serve another 3,500 children. Either is an obvious improvement; but considering we have more than 200,000 preschoolers who still lack access to high-quality pre-k, the more substantial investment will reach more kids.

Lawmakers and Gov. Wolf need to work together to create a budget that expands access to high-quality pre-k as much as possible so more children can benefit the way my kids did.

Jennifer Cebrick

Harveys Lake

Read the full Letter to the Editor here.