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Philadelphia Suburbs Lacking High-Quality Pre-K, Studies Say

High-quality preschool education isn't lacking only in Philadelphia, but also in their neighboring suburbs—some of which are considered higher-income, four new reports state.

A series of studies done by the Philadelphia-based advocacy group Public Citizens for Children and Youth found that only 13 percent of pre-K programs in Pennsylvania's Delaware County were considered to be of high quality in 2013. A mere 15 percent were awarded that accolade in Pennsylvania's Chester County, while 18 percent received it in Bucks County, and 20 percent were given it in Montgomery Country.

High-quality programs were defined as those which have teachers who understand age-appropriate ways to teach literacy and mathematics among other subjects, as well the social and emotional development of young children, Shawn Towey, the organization's child-care policy coordinator, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

"There's a vast difference between babysitting and high-quality early-learning opportunities," Towey said.

High-quality subsidized federal and state programs were deemed very difficult to access: The number of 3- and 4-year-old children who qualify for Pennsylvania's Pre-K Counts and Head Start programs far exceed supply.

In Chester County, for example, 68 slots were offered for 4,372 eligible students while in Pennsylvania's Delaware County 326 seats were available where 7,193 students qualified.

Only a handful of children in the Philadelphia suburbs attended high-quality programs—4 percent in Delaware and Bucks counties, 6.5 percent in Chester, and 7 percent in Montgomery counties, the reports stated.

The studies were compiled using data from the state Office of Development and Early Learning, which is run by the Department of Public Welfare and the Department of Education, the reports state.

The report on Bucks County, called "The Bottom Line is Children: Public Education in Bucks County," is available on the organization's website.

Data for other suburban Philadelphia counties were provided to Education Week ahead of their unveiling, but will be available to all on that site later this week, said Anthony Hopkins, the organization's communications director.

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