WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today announced that the Senate has approved $500,000 in funding for the Harrisburg School District’s nationally recognized Pre-Kindergarten program. This project was one of Senator Casey’s top priorities in the FY08 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill. The bill must now be approved by the full Congress and the President, who has threatened to veto this legislation, before funding is final.
“My colleagues in the U.S. Senate approved my funding request for this critical project because they understand that high-quality pre-Kindergarten programs are an investment in the academic and social success of our children,” Casey said. “Studies have found that children who attend Harrisburg’s Pre-K program have higher math and vocabulary skills than their peers and do better later on in school and in life.”
The Harrisburg School District’s Preschool Program has been cited as the premier model of high quality Pre-K for at-risk children in Pennsylvania. It is a collaborative effort with Capital Area Head Start and community child care providers that offer wrap-around care before and after the school day. The program, which serves about 600 three- and four-year olds annually, exposes children to developmental elements including literacy skills, language and vocabulary development, math, science, and music.
According to the Harrisburg School District:
Kindergarten teachers report that the at-risk urban children living in poverty who attended the Harrisburg Preschool Program are now arriving at Kindergarten with pre-literacy skills equivalent to those of children in suburban districts.
Penn State University research shows that the Harrisburg Preschool Program is significantly increasing the performance of children in reading and math and enabling them to succeed in the earliest years of school.
Third graders in the Harrisburg School District who attended the Harrisburg Preschool Program when they were three- and four-years old are now performing approximately 10% better on testing than they were predicted to perform.
Casey said he will continue to fight for an even greater investment in early education programs and for his legislation to fund quality Pre-K programs nationally.
In May, Casey introduced the Prepare All Kids Act to assist states in providing voluntary, high quality pre-Kindergarten to children. His legislation would ensure high quality learning by requiring collaborative preschool programs to utilize a research-based curriculum that supports children’s cognitive, social, emotional and physical development; by limiting classroom size; by improving teacher training; and by encouraging greater parental involvement.