Casey renews push for pre-k funding
Quality pre-kindergarten programs are vital for the economy and the current and future well-being of children across the country, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Wednesday.
Casey has renewed his effort to provide federal funding for pre-kindergarten programs nationwide. On Wednesday, he unveiled his Prepare All Kids Act, which would work to provide at least one year of high quality pre-kindergarten to children.
"This is one of the best ways to ensure we have the skilled workforce we're going to need, not only in Pennsylvania, but across the country," he said.
During the State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for an early learning initiative, and Casey said he hopes to work with the president on the issue.
Casey's plan would create a partnership between the states and federal government on pre-k education for children, with a focus on children from low-income families and children with special needs. Class sizes would be limited, bachelor's degrees for teachers would be required and school districts would be first to receive funding.
Especially with the federal sequestration, Casey said he knows funding will not come easy, but he is willing to accept a low level to get the program started. He would also work to make sure the funding continued yearly, so districts are not left with programs they can no longer afford.
As a freshman senator, he proposed the Prepare All Kids Act of 2007. He sought to make $5 billion in grants available to help states provide pre-kindergarten education, but the proposal never became law.
Joan Benso, president and CEO of Harrisburg-based nonprofit Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, said the organization supports Casey's renewed proposal.
"While Pennsylvania began to invest in pre-kindergarten over roughly the past 10 years, our investments still only provide publicly funded pre-k to about one in six 3- and 4-year-old children in our state," she said in a statement. "We need to build on this effort. A partnership with the federal government would allow Pennsylvania and many other states to expand our efforts and serve more children."