One in six of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled in publicly funded pre-K programs during the 2011-12 school-year. That’s according to PA Partnerships for Children.
Now U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced a new proposal for universal pre-K Wednesday.
“Children in every state need to learn at an early age and need to learn how to read at an early age,” Casey said. “And the accident, the circumstance of your birth should not determine whether or not you can read or whether you can learn.”
The Strong Start for America’s Children Act plans to increase funding for preschool programs for low- and moderate-income families.
It would also fund preschool for 4-year-old children from families that earn below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
“We cannot afford to miss an opportunity to build the economy of the future,” Casey said. “That’s really what the priority has to be is to make these efforts now so that we can continue to strengthen the economy and do it in every community, not just in communities where there’s a lot of wealth.”
The bill also works to improve the quality of infant and toddler daycare offered by providers.
Casey said the bill will make the Pre-K programs more available to schools but not mandatory.
“We have a state that has a lot more school districts per square mile than most states do, and local school districts want to make their own decisions,” Casey said. “This will be consistent with that, it will be complementary to or supplemental to what states might be doing on their own.”
The legislation encourages continued support for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, which offers evidence-based home visiting programs to improve health and development outcomes for at-risk children.
Casey said the act has bipartisan support in the Senate and they hope to be close to passing it next year.
“Every year that goes by that we don’t have a commitment to early learning is another year that we’re falling behind in terms of our future economic growth, our ability literally to create jobs and our ability to give children what they should have a right to expect” Casey said.