Pa. gubernatorial candidate Schwartz proposes expanding access to kindergarten

    One of the expected front-runners among the eight Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania governor is unveiling the start of an education plan that focuses on early learning.

    To encourage prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds and expand access to full-day kindergarten, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz said she would build on state and federal programs in place.

    “It would not be a mandate,” she said Thursday. “It would be universal access, but it would be voluntary. So, there is an infrastructure in place now, in Head Start and in Pre-K Counts, so we will be looking quite quickly to both having public schools expand them potentially to do this.”

    According to advocacy group Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, statewide enrollment in full-day kindergarten was about 68 percent in 2010.

    In a 2012 report, the same group found that fewer than 17 percent of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds have access to high-quality, publicly funded prekindergarten.

    Schwartz said she would finance her plan by directing less money toward cyber charter schools and placing a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas production in Pennsylvania. The levy would be on top of an impact fee on gas drillers.

    Her announcement comes within days of state Treasurer Rob McCord entering the Democratic race with a call to put more money toward education.

    Other Democrats lining up to take on Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in November 2014 include former state environmental secretaries Kathleen McGinty and John Hanger; Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski;York businessman Tom Wolf; Harrisburg-area minister Max Myers; and Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz.

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