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'School Readiness' Report Shows Many Still Miss Out on High-Quality Early Learning

While Pennsylvania leaders generally acknowledge the many benefits of high-quality early learning programs, the commonwealth’s investments in these proven programs has too often failed to match the rhetoric, according to the latest School Readiness report issued today by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC).

“Policymakers on both sides of the aisle increasingly recognize that high-quality pre-k and other early learning investments pay off, but Pennsylvania is still failing to fully capitalize on the many benefits these programs provide,” said PPC President and CEO Joan Benso.

“Year after year, we have seen modest funding increases - or sometimes no increases at all - for programs that we know help young children and their families, and we all pay a price for the missed opportunities that result,” Benso added. “With a new governor and a new legislative session, Pennsylvania has a prime opportunity to step up and do much more for our youngest learners.”

The latest School Readiness report finds plenty of room for boosting our investments in young learners:


  • Just 18.9 percent of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds - or only 1 in 6 children - have access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-k programs. While Pennsylvania has nearly 300,000 3- and 4-year-olds, the number of those young learners who have access to high-quality pre-k has increased by fewer than 8,400 since 2007.


  • Among children age 0-4 who are in need of child care, only 7.5 percent - or less than 1 in 13 - benefit from high-quality care. The availability of high-quality child care has languished in the single digits since at least 2007.


  • About 319,000 Pennsylvania children under age 5 - nearly half of this young population - live in low-income households, an increase from the approximately 304,000 children cited in our previous School Readiness data. Greater access to child care subsidy is critical to ensure parents in these struggling households are able to work and their children are safe and well cared for while they work.


An extensive body of research shows the academic and social benefits of high-quality early learning, including a reduced need for special education and remedial education services, decreased dropout rates, and increased likelihood of graduation and college enrollment. Early learning investments also have been linked to reduced crime and incarceration rates and less reliance on public assistance programs.

“We know these programs work to help kids and we know they pay off for the commonwealth’s taxpayers,” Benso said. “It’s time to stop talking about the need for stronger investments in early learning and actually make those investments. Our children have waited long enough.”

PPC’s annual School Readiness report details how well Pennsylvania is doing in preparing its youngest children for school by gauging progress on several child well-being indicators, including access to high-quality pre-k and child care, health insurance coverage and Early Intervention services. In addition to statewide measures, the report includes county-specific data so Pennsylvanians can see how their communities are faring in comparison to the commonwealth as a whole.

The School Readiness report is intended to be a data-driven resource enabling policymakers and community leaders to track the outcomes of their investments and better target resources to benefit young children.

View the report

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  February 18, 2015 12:26am

Fund early childhood education for all children.