New Pre-k Report highlights needs for Pre-K Counts and Head Start rate increase

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In the last five years, Pennsylvania’s spending on pre-k has increased by $145 million for state-funded, high-quality pre-k programs including Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP).

As the Commonwealth continues to increase public dollars for early childhood education, it is imperative that investments go towards increasing rates for publicly-funded programs to pay providers closer to what high-quality pre-k costs.

Trying Together, in its role as a partner of the Pre-K for PA statewide advocacy campaign, released the report Invest in Quality: A Case for Paying Closer to What High-Quality Pre-K Costs in early March 2021. In this new report the campaign recommends maintaining the rate increase provided to Pre-K Counts and HSSAP in fiscal year 2020-21.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), Pennsylvania ranks 19 out of 28 in per capita investments of pre-k programs. Pre-k rates have not kept pace with inflation. Investing in quality through rate adjustments ensures pre-k programs can maintain high-quality and safe early learning experiences for children and families.

According to the report, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the existing problem of the underfunded early childhood infrastructure. Early care and education is a critical piece to economic recovery. Pre-k will not only be essential to supporting the growth of our youngest learners who have missed out on months of learning opportunities, it will also serve as part of the infrastructure for getting families back to work.

In addition to the typical personnel and operations costs, COVID-19 health protocol have presented a new set of costs for the PPE and sanitation materials to ensure the safety of children, staff, and families.

The report maintains that Pennsylvania should allocate $9 million — consistent with the rate increase provided through the federal CARES Act funding — to specifically go toward a rate adjustment for both Pre-K Counts and HSSAP. The following allocations should be directly passed through to providers in order to meet the current needs:

*A $7 million allocation to provide rate adjustments of Pre-K Counts current
base rate from $8,750 to $9,025.

*$2 million allocation to provide rate adjustments of HSSAP current average
base rate from $10,500 to $10,805.

Read the full report: Invest in Quality: A Case for Paying Closer to What High-Quality Pre-K Costs