Community Hears About Governor’s Budget for Early Education

DUBOIS – When it comes to planning for the future, the key to success lies in our children.

That piece of advice came during a presentation Friday at the DuBois Country Club by Dr. Wendy Etheridge Smith, director of policy and planning for the departments of education and public welfare.

Smith was there to speak to Clearfield Countians from different fields about what Gov. Edward G. Rendell has proposed in his 2007-08 budget with regard to education and public welfare.

The big headline, she said, from Rendell’s budget was his initiative with Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts.

The program is one that, if approved by the Legislature, would create access to pre-kindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year-olds for an additional 11,100 who otherwise would not have that training, according to a press release from Rendell.

He called it a “down payment on future student success,” noting that participation in the program will be voluntary.

Smith said the new initiative is “very exciting for Pennsylvania.”

She was not sure how the program would be administered, but grant applications should be available for filing within two to three weeks.

“The program will have a different look in each community,” she said, adding that the goal of the funding is to create pre-K opportunities in existing care centers.

“You have to go out there and put forth your best effort and be ready to make changes.”

The governor’s budget also includes a plan to provide health insurance for Pennsylvanians without it through Cover All Pennsylvanians. Smith said this will additionally help early childhood education because a majority of child care centers and providers do not offer benefits to their employees.

“It will be a big support to our programs,” she said.

Smith also discussed Pennsylvania’s Promise for Children, a public and private campaign that encourages all Pennsylvanians to take part in raising young children and providing them with quality early learning opportunities.

In addition to the new programs, Smith said the budget provides for expansion in the Child Care Works subsidy program, early intervention, full-day kindergarten, nurse-family partnership and the Keystone STARS and Keys to Quality program.

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