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4 Kids Early Learning Loses Funding During Pa. Budget Impasse

4 Kids Early Learning, a pre-kindergarten education program that serves hundreds of children in Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs, is in danger of closing as Pennsylvania's budget impasse continues.
/ Source: wpxi.com

THE PITTSBURGH CHANNEL.com

A highly successful pre-kindergarten education program that serves hundreds of children in Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs is in danger of closing as Pennsylvania's budget impasse continues.

WTAE Channel 4's Sally Wiggin said

4 Kids Early Learning

in Braddock isn't just daycare. It is carefully structured to prepare children for a better future, as they learn to build cooperation, sharing and communication skills.

"It really makes me fairly cranky that grown-ups in Harrisburg just can't hunker down and do the work," said Michelle Atkins, board chair of

Heritage Community Initiatives

, which oversees 4 Kids program.

"When a program is disrupted, a child's life is disrupted and the family's life is disrupted, in terms of continuing care and their social emotional contacts," said Dr. Steve Bagnato, a child development expert from the University of Pittsburgh who's studying the program's success.

"There is concern for, will their developmental gains in language and so forth actually be lost?" Wiggin asked.

"Research has found that is exactly what happens," said Bagnato.

The board is willing to step up and help fund the 80 percent gap that the lack of state funding leaves in 4 Kids' $2 million budget, but it can't continue forever.

"Some of the stories we are hearing is that we may not have a budget until December," Atkins said. "If that happens, we will probably will not be able to keep our doors open," said Heritage Community Initiatives CEO Bob Grom.

Grom put it this way: If the kids in the program hit the public school districts running, they save those districts millions of dollars over time, and that's a great savings for taxpayers.

But, time is crucial.

"We always put the kids first. The children will always come first. We are going to keep our program alive for the children, we are here for the children," Grom said.

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