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Pennsylvania's Tough Decisions on Early Education

May 10, 2010

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The national recession has been forcing Pennsylvania to make tough financial decisions when it comes to the education of the youngest pupils, according to a just-released report. "The State of Pre-School 2009," from the National Institute for Early Education Research, indicates that several years of increases in the number of pre-school programs nationwide tailed off last year, and a dozen states are now considering cuts in pre-K funding for 2011.

Marci Young, who is project director for Pre-K Now, a program funded by the Pew Center on the States, says the benefits kids take away from a good pre-K program shouldn't be taken lightly.

"The cost of remedial education education later on goes down. There's more likelihood that these children will graduate from high school, and as a result, get better-paying jobs and contribute more to the tax base of the economy later on."

Young says the study shows some good news for Pennsylvania. The state is hitting the majority of criteria the report lays out in terms of what constitutes a solid early education program.

"That includes things like standards, teacher degrees and specialized training, class sizes and staff-child ratios, and other benchmarks that indicate high quality."

Young is hopeful that more permanent federal funding will ultimately replace economic stimulus money.

"With federal help to bolster what states are doing, we know we can improve the quality, including raising teacher preparation and effectiveness, increasing the access, while growing their investments in children."

Governor Ed Rendell has proposed a 'no growth' early childhood education budget for the upcoming fiscal year. There's a fear that once federal economic recovery funds run dry, programs in the state now using them, such as preschool, could face what some are calling an economic cliff, in two years.

"The State of Pre-School 2009" report is at www.nieer.org

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA