First Lady Frances Wolf joined the Pre-K for PA campaign in praising the perseverance of educators and students during a virtual visit with pre-k classrooms across the commonwealth.
Mrs. Wolf spoke with pre-k teachers, administrators, and advocates about the benefits of high-quality early-learning programs, how teachers adapted their teaching during the pandemic, how the families of pre-k students are managing, and what education advocates hope to see following the pandemic.
“Early childhood educators have worked tirelessly to support our youngest learners amidst the very challenging circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Tom and I express our deepest gratitude for their dedication to the well-being of our children, their families, and Pennsylvania as a whole,” said First Lady Wolf. “For this, we owe it to them to ensure they have the resources they need to help mold our children into the leaders of tomorrow.”
From the beginning, the Wolf Administration has prioritized increasing Pennsylvania’s educational opportunities. In the past six years, Governor Wolf has secured an additional $1.4 billion in funding for pre-k through college.
Understanding that 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, the governor’s 2021-22 budget proposes a $25 million increase in Pre-K Counts funding and $5 million increase in funding for the Head Start Supplemental Program. This new funding will allow 3,271 additional children to enroll in the state’s high-quality early learning programs.
The governor’s 2021-22 budget proposal also includes:
- Stabilizing childcare and ensuring equal access for families through $87.17 million in additional federal funds to support increased Child Care Works base rates and create a more stable business environment for childcare facilities, and
- Increasing access to early intervention (EI) services. EI provides children up to age five with developmental delays with a range of developmental and social-emotional services, including speech and language, occupational and physical therapies, and social work services. The proposed $11 million would open 2,000 additional slots for children age 3 to 5.
In addition, Governor Wolf recently announced that Pennsylvania is expected to receive $4.9 billion in federal relief funds to help Pre-K to 12 schools return students to classroom learning and equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most.
Each spring, Governor and First Lady Wolf, in partnership with Pre-K for PA, invite classrooms to the Pennsylvania Governor’s Residence to participate in an Easter egg hunt and celebrate the importance of high-quality, accessible early learning programs.
This year, to ensure the safety of all participants and include more preschoolers, Pre-K for PA sent the egg hunt to classrooms across the state and encouraged teachers to share photos and videos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #IAmPreK. The hunt culminated in a virtual classroom visit with the First Lady, giving her an opportunity to see and hear first-hand about the pandemic experiences of preschool teachers, students, administrators, and advocates.
“We’re so pleased to be able to keep this tradition alive during the pandemic,” said Jen DeBell, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, a Pre-K for PA principal partner. “Our celebration may look very different this year, but everything looks different, including our pre-k classrooms. These programs have gone to great expense and great lengths to keep the children safe. The proposed $30 million increase in Governor Wolf’s 2021-22 budget will expand high-quality pre-k access by approximately 3,270 young children. We encourage the legislature to continue the tradition of expanding access to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to children across the Commonwealth.”
The full virtual classroom visit can be found at www.pacast.com.
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