HARRISBURG – Families interested in enrolling their children in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts next fall are being urged to apply now by contacting any one of the early childhood education providers funded by Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts for the 2008-2009 school year.
“We have seen such success in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts that the word is spreading through communities,” Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak said. “Parents whose children will be three or four years old next fall should start thinking about pre-kindergarten enrollment now.”
Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts is a state-funded initiative that enables school districts, Head Start providers, child care centers and nursery schools to deliver high-quality pre-kindergarten to more children, with an emphasis on those who are at the greatest risk of future academic failure.
Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts classrooms offer qualified teachers, small class sizes, a curriculum aligned with the Pennsylvania Early Learning standards, regular assessment of the children’s progress and reporting of the program’s performance. These quality expectations will ensure that the children enrolled have a high-quality early learning experience.
Eligible families include those earning 300 percent or less of the federal poverty level (such as a family of four earning $66,150), English language learners, and families of children with special needs. Children are eligible for enrollment in the program from age 3 until the entry age for kindergarten.
In 2008-09, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts has provided high-quality pre-kindergarten to approximately 11,800 three- and four-year-olds across the state. Gov. Edward G. Rendell has proposed expanding funding for this program in the 2009-10 education budget by $8.6 million – for a total of $95 million – to give approximately 1,000 more children access to quality early childhood.
“The high quality design and accountability of Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts is making it a resounding success for our children and excellent use of public resources,” Zahorchak said. “School districts are reporting that children who graduated from Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts last year entered their kindergarten year with age-appropriate skills, were better prepared for kindergarten than their peers, and are meeting developmental benchmarks.”
School districts have also reported that many children who required Early Intervention services in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts made enough progress that they no longer required services in kindergarten. In addition, many school districts report that a much smaller percentage of children who attended PA Pre-K Counts have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) compared to the total kindergarten population.
“This progress translates into fewer children requiring expensive special education services throughout their school career, and an immediate savings to our school districts,” noted Zahorchak.
Parents should contact Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts grantees directly for enrollment information and how to apply. For a complete list of current Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts grantees, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Education Web site’s early childhood education pageand click on the “Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts” link in the left-hand margin.