By Andrea Sears and Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service,
and The Post Publications
STOWE PA – Advocates for establishing pre-kindergarten classrooms across the state arrived Wednesday (Sept. 20, 2017) at the Pottsgrove School District’s West Pottsgrove Elementary School to promote findings of a new report that says enrolling children in quality pre-K programs gives them important tools for learning.
The four-page report, available here from the “Pre-K for PA Campaign” and the Pennsylvania Principals Association, said surveys of the state’s elementary school principals indicate more than 98 percent agree quality pre-K is essential to prepare children – especially those in lower income families – for kindergarten.
But Paul Healey, the association’s executive director, told those at a press conference held at 1 p.m. in the West Pottsgrove building that almost two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s eligible preschoolers lack access to publicly funded pre-K programs. His message: “We really need to do a better job as a state to advocate for pre-K, early childhood experiences, as well as closing that opportunity gap.”
West Pottsgrove Principal Terri Koehler, a proponent of expanding the district’s interaction with local public and private pre-school classes, was among those participating in the media event. She testified that teachers’ experiences with students supported available research indicating the classes better prepared them to succeed later in school.
Studies have shown pre-K can reduce the need for learning remediation or for children to repeat grades, as well as improve their performance on standardized tests, according to the association.
Funding for quality pre-K has growing bipartisan support, Healy claims. The 2017-2018 Pennsylvania budget passed earlier this year includes a $30 million-increase for the state’s Pre-K Counts and Head Start programs. Although finding revenue to support that increase is a battle still being waged in the state Legislature, Healey calls the tentative monetary boost a step in the right direction.
The district is a direct beneficiary of the Pre-K Counts initiative. Thanks to grant funding from the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, on Wednesday it opened a pre-kindergarten class that will operate 6-1/2 hours per day at West Pottsgrove for 20 students. Koehler said its children will learn important educational concepts, get exercise in recess activities, and develop social skills.
A state investment of an additional $310 million by 2022 would ensure that every at-risk child in Pennsylvania could have access to high-quality pre-K, Healy added.
Composite graphic with photos from Public News Service and The Post Publications