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Sen. Casey Calls for Universal Pre-K

Edward N. Johnson
US Army

Pennsylvania’s senior US Senator says he is ready to give another try at passing a bill that makes access to pre-kindergarten learning nearly universal.  Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) this week once again introduced the Prepare All Kids Act, which is intended to provide one year of voluntary, high quality pre-k to all children.

“Investing in early education will help children learn more now so they can earn more later,” Casey said of the bill that puts a special focus on funding for children from families with incomes less than 200% of the federal poverty level and children with special needs.

Casey believes having early learning opportunities, along with access to healthcare, access to nutritious food, and personal safety, is one of the four pillars of what every child should have a right to expect. 

But Casey does not want states to simply open classrooms to young students.

“The bill ensures high quality teaching by requiring that pre-kindergarten teachers have baccalaureate degrees within six years with support for teacher education development,” Casey said.  His bill also requires that the classes “utilize a research-based curriculum that supports children’s cognitive, social, emotional and physical development and individual learning styles.”

Class sizes would have to be limited to a maximum of 20 children, child-to-teacher ratios could not exceed 10 to 1 and pre-k providers would have to work with local school districts to provide a smooth transition from early education to elementary school.

States would get matching funds to implement the programs but Casey has not yet submitted the bill for a budget score.

Casey introduced similar language in the last two sessions but it has never come to the senate floor for a vote despite moving out of committee.  He’s hoping for a better result in the 114 Congress.

“If you come to this issue solely concerned about job creation you should support investments in early learning," Casey said. "If your only focus is economic growth to reduce the deficit you should support investments in early learning, if your only focus is on reducing crime you should support investments in early learning.”