Provide universal access to high-quality early childhood education

"Early childhood education is one of the most effective interventions we can make in the lives of our children. It is proven that children who participate in high quality pre-k perform better in school later on. They graduate at higher rates, they learn more now, and they earn more later."
-Governor Tom Wolf

Why is this goal important?

Children who participate in high-quality pre-k programs perform better in school, are more likely to graduate, and earn more throughout their lives compared to peers without access to early learning programs. Investments in high-quality early childhood education more than pay for themselves through the benefits they create, including increased earnings and reduced criminal activity later on in children's lives. High-quality early education programs equip young children with the skills needed to start kindergarten ready to learn.

What are we working on to reach this goal?

The Wolf Administration has taken significant steps to support high-quality pre-k programs in Pennsylvania and announced more than $384 million in grant funding for early childhood education. This funding, made available through the Pennsylvania Department of Education Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), opens up nearly 3,000 new Pre-K Counts slots and supports Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program operations (in the last year). Continuing his commitment to education from pre-K to postsecondary, Governor Wolf’s final enacted budget contained a historic $1.8 billion in funding, including a $79 million increase for early education through Pre-K Counts and Head Start. The Wolf administration has increased education funding by more than $3.7 billion since 2015, with early childhood increases totaling $254 million over the past eight years.

How are we doing?

Pre-K Counts

Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts provides high-quality pre-kindergarten services to at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds at no cost to families. Children living in families earning up to 300 percent of poverty, or a family of four earning $75,300 annually, are eligible to apply. Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts is offered in school districts, Keystone STARS 3 and 4 child care programs, Head Start programs, and licensed nursery schools.

Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP)

Pennsylvania’s Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program provides state funding to Head Start programs to serve 3- and 4-year-olds living in families at or below 130 percent of poverty, or a family of four earning $32,630 annually. The programs provide comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services aligned to the federal program requirements.

Related Measures

Child Care Works Waiting List

This chart presents data on the number of children on the Child Care Works waiting list, by month. The data reflect a point in time number as of the last day of the month. By default, statewide data are shown. Use the filters to explore data for specific counties and for additional years.

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