According to the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC) nearly 2000 early childhood education professionals may have to drop out of professional development courses they are currently enrolled in. These early childhood educators are believed to be the latest victims of state budget cuts. Prior to state funding cuts, the Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (T.E.A.C.H.) program provided funds for college scholarship programs and other assistance intended to improve childcare quality, increase compensation for early childhood professionals and reduce attrition of early childhood education staff. The funds for the program are from grants from corporate giving and foundations, as well as government sources. Government funding was slashed in the latest budget. The Pennsylvania Childcare Association (PACCA) reports that Governor Tom Corbett (R-PA) agreed to cut $6.5 million and to eliminate T.E.A.C.H. as suggested by Department of Public Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander two weeks after passage of the FY-2012 budget.
This decision has riled early childhood education advocates. Earlier in the month a call-in day, email campaign, and a series of petitions were setup to show support for funding T.E.A.C.H. Governor Corbett campaigned on improving educational options for students, and making funding for education a top priority. However, everyone from the Promising Kids Blog to the Pennsylvania State Education Association are accusing Governor Corbett of dismantling that which he holds in high regard. This is in part due to the perceived impact on the Keystone STARS program.
The Keystone STARS program is a voluntary quality rating system that increases an early childhood education provider’s rating, in part, based on the percentage of staff that hold associate and bachelor level degrees in early childhood education. Beginning in 1997, T.E.A.C.H. has reportedly helped some 5,000 early childhood education workers secure these credentials. However, the elimination of T.E.A.C.H. will break the connection between these two complimentary programs.
In a brief statement released July 26, 2011 the PACCA informed early childhood education providers that they are working with the state Office of Childhood Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) to restore funding for T.E.A.C.H. As well, PACCA has reportedly begun notifying scholarship recipients of how these cuts will impact them. The cuts have been made, but this is not likely the end of the debate regarding T.E.A.C.H.