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Universal Kindergarten and pre-K examined for PA

By Fritz Mayer
April 23, 2014

PHILADELPHIA, PA — Pennsylvania is one of six states that does not require school districts to offer Kindergarten classes. A growing number of officials say not only is Kindergarten essential to a child’s wellbeing, but so is pre-K.

The House Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing on the matter on April 18. The hearing was requested by Rep. Brendan Boyle, who is working on legislation that would provide for universal pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten in the state.

Among those testifying was Sharon Easterling, the executive director of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children. She said, “The primary point of contention between those who favor public investments in pre-K and those who do not, is that initial gains of preschool tend to ‘fade out’ after the first few years of primary school.

“It is important to note that this is not true of all studies, but even in the same studies in which preschool and non-preschool children have similar test scores after a few years, children who had preschool benefit in other important ways for years thereafter.

“Studies of small intensive preschools, larger programs and Head Start show preschool children are more likely to graduate from high school, complete more years of education, earn more money, have fewer teenage pregnancies and are less likely to become involved in crime.”

Ronald Cowell, president of the Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) said the state lags behind most others in terms of early education requirements. He said, “In Pennsylvania, except in Philadelphia, parents do not have a legal obligation to provide for the education of their child until the age of eight. Just a couple of years ago, with the leadership of the Philadelphia legislative delegation, the compulsory attendance age was changed to six for children in Philadelphia.

“According to the Education Commission of the States, in March 2014, the compulsory school age is eight only in Pennsylvania and Washington. It is seven in 13 states, and six or five in all other states. In our contiguous states, the compulsory school age is five in Delaware and Maryland, and six in New Jersey, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.”