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Tools for the Campaign
Budget Talking Points

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2010/2011 Budget Message Points

What is Pre-K Today?

  • Pre-K Today is a statewide non-partisan campaign launched by a broad-based coalition from around the Commonwealth committed to efforts to advance dedicated state financing for voluntary high quality pre-kindergarten programs designed to assure that Pennsylvania's children enter school ready to learn and prepared to succeed.

Public Policy Goal

  • Pre-K Today organized to support the creation of Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts in 2007.  PA Pre-K Counts provides 3- and 4-year-olds at risk of school failure with voluntary, high-quality pre-K delivered through a mixed service delivery system in which all providers comply with State Board of Education pre-K regulations and the state’s early learning standards.

FY 2010-2011 Proposed Budget

  • Governor’s proposed FY 2010-2011 budget cuts Pre-K Counts by $475,000 and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program by $784,000 reducing access by a total of 185 low-income children.
  • At the start of the 2009-2010 school-year, more than 7,800 eligible children were on waiting lists for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts.
  • At the end of the 2008-2009 school 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.  Of those children who participated in Pre-K Counts in 2007-2008, a smaller percentage required Early Intervention services in kindergarten than among the total kindergarten population.

Description of Pennsylvania Pre K Counts

  • The Pennsylvania Pre K Counts program, established by the Department of Education, makes high quality pre-kindergarten opportunities available to 3 and 4 year old children across the Commonwealth at risk of school failure, either because of income (300% of the federal 2009 poverty level, or a family of four earning $66,150), language, cultural, or special needs issues.
  • Fiscal year 2009-2010 level funded Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts at $86.4 million, the same as fiscal year 2008-2009 enabling nearly 12,000 preschool children to voluntarily attend quality half- and full-day programs in schools, Head Start, child care centers and nursery schools.
  • Funding is available to all Pennsylvania communities through an RFP process with priority given to school districts and other providers who serve children at-risk of education failure.
  • All children in participating communities from age 3 until they enter kindergarten are eligible. Pennsylvania Pre K Counts supports the inclusion of children with diverse needs.
  • All programs are voluntary and operate on a 180-day school calendar.
  • Any school district, Head Start program, or nursery school that complies with pre-K program standards of State Board of Education may apply through the RFP process. Child care centers with a STAR 3 rating or above may also apply.
  • The Pennsylvania Pre K Counts initiative builds on the work of the Pre K Counts Public-Private Partnership for Educational Success, a three-year project funded by leading Pennsylvania foundations and supported by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Pre-K in Pennsylvania Today

  • Pre-K Counts and Head Start sites reported waiting lists of more than 5,000 children for the 2010-2011 school year.
  • In FY 2009-2010, 11,800 children at risk of education failure are participating in Pre-K Counts. The high-quality program is provided through Head Start, licensed nursery schools, school districts, and regulated child care providers rated STAR 3 or 4 in Keystone STARS. The Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP) is enabling Head Start programs to enroll and/or expand service to over 5,700 children.
  • Fewer than 18% of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year olds have access to high-quality, publicly-funded pre-K. 

Pre-K Creates Successful Students
Quality pre-K is proven to increase student success by building students’ social, emotional, and cognitive development. Research has shown that children who attend high-quality pre-K enter school more prepared and achieve greater education success, including fewer grade retentions, less remediation, higher standardized test scores, and higher graduation rates.

  • In its first year, FY 2007-2008, 94% of PA Pre-K Counts children demonstrated age-appropriate skills and behaviors or emerging or skills and behaviors after participating in the program. Children showed improvement in their ability to recognize letters and words; to write their names, letters and numbers; developed language skills, especially among English language learners and those entering with limited language skills.
  • At the end of the 2008-2009 school year, nearly every child (99%) showed age-appropriate or emerging proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and social skills after attending the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program. Child outcomes for 2008-2009 are consistent with first year outcomes. In 2007-2008, 94% of Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts children finished the school year with age-appropriate or emerging age appropriate skills and behaviors.
  • In Pennsylvania, some small school districts with very high special education expenditures would recoup as much as $1.16 for every dollar. (Clive Belfield for the PA BUILD initiative: Invest Now or Pay More Later: Early Childhood Education Promises Savings to Pennsylvania School Districts. 2006.)
  • Children from the Early Childhood Initiative in Allegheny County – 4-year-olds already at severe risk of education failure – showed special education and grade retention rates below 2 percent when they got to school, in districts toppling 21 percent special education and retention rates. (UCLID Center at the University of Pittsburgh and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh:  Allegheny County Early Childhood Initiative Evaluation, March 2002.)
  • The national research demonstrates that children with quality pre-K experiences enter kindergarten with better reading, language, math, cognitive, and social skills than those without pre-K. (Peisner-Feinberg, Burhcinal, Clifford, Culkin, Howes, Kagan, Yazejian, Byler, Rustici, and Zelazo.  The Children of Cost, Quality and Outcomes Study Go to School, 2000.)

Pre-K Creates Successful Communities
Successful communities require successful schools that help our children develop socially and intellectually from day one.

  • Giving children the basic social, emotional, and academic tools improves all schools and communities. 
  • Children who learn how to learn very early are more likely to realize later academic and career success.  America needs a 21st century education system that gives all children the tools to succeed in school, the workplace, and as active citizens.
  • 90% of brain development occurs before age five; it is important to stimulate young minds as early as possible.
  • Quality pre-K helps to prepare children for success in adulthood.  Children who attend high quality early education programs are likelier to mature into responsible citizens – likelier to be married, with higher education attainment and better paying jobs. (Early Learning, Later Success: The Abecedarian Study. University of North Carolina. 1999.)
  • The most recent cost benefit analysis of the “Perry Preschool Program” in Michigan has revealed that for every $1 spent, an estimated $16 was saved in lower public expenditures for welfare, education and other services. (Schweinhart, L.J.. The High Scope/Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40: Summary, Conclusions and Frequently Asked Questions. Ypsilanti, MI: High Scope Educational Foundation. 2005.)