Pennsylvania’s kindergarten teachers ask state lawmakers for more pre-K funding

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    The fight to secure more funding for high-quality early education in Pennsylvania has a new ally: the state’s kindergarten teachers.

    A survey by the Pennsylvania State Education Association found nearly unanimous support for publicly funded pre-kindergarten education among the union’s members who teach children that age.

    The results were released Tuesday by Pre-K for PA, a coalition of educators and education advocates that seeks to expand access to early education programs for Pennsylvania’s preschool-age children.

    Members of the campaign appeared at Hamilton Elementary School in Carlisle, Cumberland County on Tuesday to tout the findings of the survey and call for additional funding for early education programs.

    Ninety-six percent of the teachers surveyed by PSEA agree that students who attend pre-K are more prepared for kindergarten, they said. In addition, 98 percent said that high-quality, publicly funded pre-K is an important tool for preparing at-risk children for kindergarten.

    A report that detailed the results did not disclose the survey’s methods or sample size.

    According to a state Department of Education report, more than 115,000 children living in deep poverty did not have access to publicly funded pre-k programs in the 2016-17 school year.

    Teachers say that children who arrive in kindergarten without pre-K experience have lower literacy and emotional readiness than their peers who did attend pre-K.

    “Students who attend high-quality pre-K programs come into kindergarten ready to succeed,” Miranda Clash, a teacher in the Carlisle Area School District, said in a statement. “They have already practiced essential learning behaviors, know how to regulate their emotions, interact appropriately with peers, and have a solid foundation of language and background knowledge onto which they can add new learning.”

    She added, “for students who have had a high-quality pre-K experience, I don’t have to spend as much time teaching these prerequisites to academic learning.”

    The Pre-K for PA coalition is calling for a $50 million increase for early-education programs in Pennsylvania’s 2019-20 budget. The group says that appropriation will allow an additional 55,000 children to access high-quality, pre-K education.

    Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, proposed an increase at that level in his February budget. Of that increase, $40 million would be appropriated for Pre-K Counts grants for low-income families.

    The deadline for Wolf and the General Assembly to agree on a budget plan is June 30.

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