The Importance of Equitable Access to Quality Early Learning
“Students who attend high-quality preschool programs reap benefits that can last through school and their lives, according to a review of research released by Learning Policy Institute (LPI). The study includes reviews of rigorous evaluations of 21 large-scale public preschool programs which find that children who attend these programs are more prepared for school and experience substantial learning gains in comparison to children who do not attend preschool.” - Learning Policy Institute, Jan. 31, 2019
Children ages three to five are considered “pre-school age” and qualify for pre-kindergarten (pre-K) opportunities such as pre-school, nursery school, HeadStart, child care centers, school-based programs, and family care homes. In 2019, only 14% of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds in Lancaster County were enrolled in pre-K, significantly less than the state’s 23%. In southcentral PA, only Chester County and York County had lower pre-K participation than Lancaster County.(1)
There are several barriers that families face in this arena:
- Cost – average monthly cost for one child in preschool ranges from $800 - $1,000. Some preschools offer a sliding scale fee based on number of children enrolled and family income.
- Access – families with transportation issues have difficulty getting their children to preschool.
- Awareness – Preschool is a fairly new concept. HeadStart, the federally funded preschool program, was founded in 1965. The growth of two-income families in the 1980’s created a need for more child care and preschool options. Parents and grandparents who did not attend preschool may not be aware of the benefits it offers.
We're partnering with two organizations that are focused on helping to make our legislators aware of the need for strong, affordable childcare and early learning opportunities:
Start Strong PA aims to improve healthy development outcomes for infants and toddlers by increasing support for and improving the quality of child care programs that serve them.
Pre-K for PA launched in January 2014 as a non-partisan issue campaign. Our goal is that by 2022, every at-risk child will have access to a high-quality pre-kindergarten program and middle-income families will more easily afford these services for their children.
How Can You Help Advocate for Early Learning?
In a world where finding and retaining quality employees can be a challenge, making sure that child care isn’t a barrier for employees means your business runs more smoothly. Affordable, reliable, high-quality child care and preschool gives your employees peace of mind and stability.
Invest in Pre-K EITC
- Join the Campaign! Our goal is to add:
- Lend your voice at an upcoming legislative breakfast or dinner
Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. Children who attend high-quality preschool programs are more successful in school. Preschool teaches children to follow directions, to learn by playing, to become more socially and emotionally developed, and can identify the need for early intervention to allow children the extra supports they may need to be successful learners. Preschool contributes to education equality.
- Join the Campaign! Our goal is to add:
- Attend a UWLC community conversation to learn more about early learning
- For families with young children, attend a kindergarten registration event in your area
- Make a contribution to UWLC’s early learning platform
We are also recruiting advocates to partner with us on these initiatives:
How you can help with advocacy:
- Sign a petition to support state or federal legislation
- Spread awareness about legislative action on social media
- Write a letter to the editor in Lancaster Newspapers
- Attend a meeting with a legislator in Lancaster or Harrisburg, PA
- Volunteer to help with kids’ activities at a kindergarten transition event
Add me to the United Way Advocacy Policy Action Team contact list
Ready to reach out? Contact your local legislator
Personalized e-mails are especially effective. Consider adding why your issue is important to you and the hardworking taxpayers in your community.