By Kathleen Brown McHale Oct. 21, 2015


Current research concludes that a child’s brain is 90 per­cent de­veloped by age 5. This means that the preschool years are the most im­port­ant for our chil­dren’s men­tal, so­cial and emo­tion­al growth. Stud­ies also sug­gest that every dol­lar spent on high-qual­ity preschool saves so­ci­ety from $9 to $13 in fu­ture costs: less spe­cial­ized edu­ca­tion, less crime, few­er school dro­pouts and lower un­em­ploy­ment. How many oth­er in­vest­ments can boast those re­turns? How many oth­ers even come close to the im­port­ance of in­vest­ing in a young child’s de­vel­op­ment, edu­ca­tion and fu­ture?


The gov­ernor in­cluded an ad­di­tion­al $120 mil­lion in­vest­ment in his budget pro­pos­al for Pre-K Counts, a no-cost high-qual­ity preschool pro­gram for work­ing fam­il­ies. A fam­ily of three with an in­come of up to $60,270 qual­i­fies for a free 30-hour-a-week preschool pro­gram that meets Pennsylvania’s highest early learn­ing stand­ards. In an­ti­cip­a­tion of the new budget, the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia asked qual­i­fied part­ner or­gan­iz­a­tions to ex­pand their cur­rent Pre-K Counts pro­grams. The school dis­trict typ­ic­ally con­tracts with qual­i­fied early edu­ca­tion pro­viders across the city at a rate that is lower than they would have to spend to provide the ser­vice them­selves. SPIN is one such pro­vider, awar­ded the highest qual­ity rat­ing by the Pennsylvania Of­fice of Child De­vel­op­ment and Early Learn­ing. SPIN agreed to ex­pand its Pre-K Counts Pro­gram, and soon after, leased and began renov­at­ing a small school build­ing in Park­wood.


Know­ing that the gov­ernor in­cluded ad­di­tion­al re­sources for Pre-K Counts in his budget pro­pos­al and un­der­stand­ing that, in the le­gis­lature, both sides of the aisle be­lieved in ex­pand­ing the pro­gram, SPIN used its own money to lease and ren­ov­ate the school build­ing to house the ex­pan­sion pro­gram. Nu­mer­ous up­dates were com­pleted, cost­ing nearly $400,000.


SPIN is ready with qual­i­fied Pre-K teach­ers and teach­er as­sist­ants and a fully ren­ov­ated school build­ing, but the chil­dren can­not come. The chil­dren can­not come be­cause the Pennsylvania le­gis­lature and the gov­ernor have been un­able to work to­geth­er to pass an an­nu­al budget that will in­clude fund­ing the ex­pan­sion of Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts pro­gram. SPIN’s is not the only pro­gram be­ing held up. There are hun­dreds across the state that are un­able to open due to the budget im­passe.


SPIN is will­ing to start the pro­gram and be paid later, but without the le­gis­lature’s 2015-16 fund­ing al­loc­a­tion, the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia has no au­thor­iz­a­tion to move for­ward with Pre-K ex­pan­sion. At SPIN, the losers are 100 chil­dren aged 3 to 5, their par­ents, the teach­ing staff and the non­profit or­gan­iz­a­tion as a whole. Across Pennsylvania, 14,000 to 20,000 young chil­dren are in danger of los­ing an en­tire year of preschool.


We’ve gone al­most four months without a budget. It is time to pass an an­nu­al state budget so the chil­dren can come. It is time to pass a budget that ad­dresses the crit­ic­al im­port­ance of early child­hood edu­ca­tion in the fu­ture of Pennsylvania.



Kath­leen Brown McHale is pres­id­ent and CEO of SPIN, Inc.