Local leaders took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday at the new Pre-K Counts expansion classroom at Manheim Township’s Brecht Elementary School.
The classroom, Manheim Township School District’s fourth, is a partnership between the district and Owl Hill Learning Center. State Sen. Scott Martin joined Manheim Township School District officials, Owl Hill Learning Center staff, United Way of Lancaster County President and CEO Kevin Ressler and District Attorney Heather Adams to celebrate the opening.
The Pre-K Counts expansion classroom was made possible by a state grant. Legislators provided an additional $60 million for the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Program and $19 million for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program as part of the 2022-23 state budget, enough funding to give roughly 2,300 more students access to high quality pre-K.
The organization Pre-K for PA has been pushing for funding to increase further. More than 6,600 children in Lancaster County — 77% of those considered eligible based on their parents’ income — do not have access to publicly funded high-quality pre-K; that is, programs where classes are overseen by teachers with early childhood education degrees.
Children who attend high-quality pre-K exhibit better self-control and better educational outcomes. That pays off in reduced delinquency and crime and improved public safety, Adams said.
“United Way of Lancaster County has partnered with Pre-K for PA for a number of years,” Ressler said, “and continues to believe the best opportunity to build our community for generations is through high quality early child learning initiatives,” of which Owl Hill is a shining example.
“It’s so much more than just adding resources,” Sen. Martin said. “It’s adding opportunities for the kids, for their families.”