The undersigned organizations and individuals, representing a wide array of early childhood education supporters, respectfully urge you to make investing in high quality early education and care for Pennsylvania’s children an integral part of the Commonwealth’s FY 2010-2011 General Fund Budget.
We recognize the tremendous challenge the current fiscal crisis poses for the enactment of the FY 2010-2011 budget. However, as you weigh investment priorities we urge you to remember the importance of investing in programs that assure our children enter school ready to learn. Investments in high quality early childhood education also support parents to seek and maintain employment while knowing that their children are cared for and safe. We cannot afford to cut our way out of our current financial challenges. We urge you to explore every option to balancing the budget, including raising revenue.
While the waiting list for Child Care Works has been eliminated for the first time since 2003, this was only accomplished by the Commonwealth’s continued investment and use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. Child Care Works provides an essential support for low-income, working families to gain and sustain employment. Parents of young children cannot work without safe and reliable child care. We urge you to invest $370 million in state funds for Child Care Works.
Pennsylvania is home to over 294,000 three- and four-year olds, 57% of whom live in families with incomes below 300% of the federal poverty level. Just 30% of children in these families have access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-K. Children who attend high-quality pre-K programs enter kindergarten with better language, reading, math, and social skills. Research demonstrates that public investment in high-quality pre-K improves school achievement, reduces special education spending, reduces juvenile crime, and increases lifetime earnings of the participating children.
Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts is providing high-quality, pre-kindergarten to 11,800 three-and four-year olds who are at-risk of education failure. In just its second year, nearly 75 percent of children who attended Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts finished the school year with age-appropriate proficiency in literacy, numeracy and social skills indicating their readiness to enter kindergarten prepared to learn. The Governor’s FY 2010-211 budget cut this program. We urge you to restore funding to FY 2009-2010 levels of $86.4 million.
The Governor’s FY 2010-2011 budget also cut funding to the Head Supplemental Assistance Program. For over 40 years Head Start programs have successfully addressed the early education and social needs of some of our most vulnerable young children. The Head Start Supplemental enables Pennsylvania to serve nearly 5,700 children. Head Start Supplemental funding should be maintained at FY 2010-2011 levels of $39.48 million.
Research has shown that high quality early childhood programs produce results. Keystone STARS and the T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship program are key components of our early learning system that assure programs for young children are of high quality and staff have the qualifications to implement these programs. These programs are funded under Child Care Works. Therefore, it is important to provide sufficient funding for the program, as outlined above, to maintain the Commonwealth’s investment in quality.
Early childhood education investments have powerful immediate and long-term impacts. Cuts alone are not the way out of this economic crisis. We ask that you maintain funding for Child Care Works, and restore the cuts to Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. We encourage you to explore all options to balance the budget -- including raising revenue.
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