School Readiness Report Finds PA Must Pick Up Pace of Early Learning Investments

County-level Data Shows Pre-K Access Lacking Across Commonwealth

HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania needs to make stronger investments in pre-kindergarten and other high-quality early learning programs if it wants to reap the full social and economic benefits of these proven programs, according to the 2013 School Readiness report issued today by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC).

Despite increased state investments this fiscal year in Pre-K Counts, Head Start Supplemental Assistance and child care services, tens of thousands of Pennsylvania children lack access to these effective programs. The 2013 School Readiness report finds that:

  • Only 15.9 percent of all 3- and 4-year-olds in the commonwealth, or 47,158 children, have access to publicly funded pre-k programs like Head Start and Pre-K Counts - a decline from 16.7 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in 2012 and 17.6 percent in 2011.
  • Fewer than 1 in 20 children ages 0-4 benefit from high-quality child care, which has been shown to boost cognitive development and improve literacy and social skills.
  • The number of child care subsidy slots available to infants, toddlers and preschool-age children has dropped by nearly 3,000 in the past year – falling to 38,936 slots from 41,844 – and more than 6,200 children are on waiting lists for child care subsidy, with an average wait of nearly 20 weeks.

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 pre-kindergarten 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.

PPC President and CEO Joan Benso said county-level data shows a need for stronger investments in pre-k and other early learning programs exists in each of the 67 counties, particularly among low-income children.

"The economy in recent years has taken a toll on hard-working families and, in many cases, had a ripple effect on learning opportunities for young children," Benso said. "Every child deserves a chance to succeed in school and in life, and smart investments in pre-k and other high-quality early learning can increase access to these programs and bring a solid return on the taxpayers' investment."

A host of research in recent years details 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.

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. The report, along with county-level data, is available at www.papartnerships.org/sr2013.

SOURCE Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children



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