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 provided unprecedented support to high-quality pre-k programs in Pennsylvania. Since Governor Wolf took office in 2015, he has doubled funding for high-quality pre-k, extending access to an additional 13,500 children. In addition to increasing access to high-quality pre-k programs, the governor has fought for other investments that ensure children start life on the right path. The September 2019 report of the governor’s Ready to Start Task Force provides a framework to support Pennsylvania’s infants and toddlers and how best to care for the state’s youngest residents. The 2021-22 budget provided a $30 million increase in early childhood education funding to support Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. This new funding will allow an additional 3,270 children to enroll in Pennsylvania’s high-quality early learning programs. Additionally, the new budget provides $20 million for Ready to Learn and $11 million for preschool Early Intervention.
How are we doing?
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.