In Allentown, Gov. Wolf celebrates early learning funding, unveils free breakfast program

Written by on September 9, 2022

In Allentown, Gov. Wolf celebrates early learning funding, unveils free breakfast program

By Sarah Mueller
September 9, 2022

Gov. Tom Wolf plays parachute with children during a visit to The Children’s Center in Allentown on Sept. 9, 2022. (Photo | Sarah Mueller)

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf visited the Volunteers of America Children’s Center in Allentown to celebrate increased state funding for early education in this year’s budget.

He also came with a big announcement: free breakfast for every child enrolled in school this academic year. It takes effect Oct. 1 and will benefit more than 1.7 million children at a cost of about $21.5 million.

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Wolf briefly played parachute with a group of small children at The Children’s Center before holding a news conference.

Lawmakers approved an additional $79 million in this year’s state budget, targeted for high-quality preschool programs through Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program.

Wolf says it’s OK to celebrate all of the strides his administration has made on this issue over his eight years of leadership.

“But as soon as we finish patting ourselves on the back, I think we also need to understand we need to get back to work,” he said. “We need to recommit ourselves to doing more.”

Children’s Center Director Betty Druckenmiller says the facility is only at 60 percent capacity because she can’t find qualified staff to fill vacant positions.

“I have an empty classroom and shortened hours and we would absolutely add more people if we had the qualified teachers to do it,” she said.

The programs run through Pre-K Counts and Head Start subsidize the cost to allow low-income families access to high-quality preschool. But many children in Lehigh County and across the state are on waiting lists to access the programs.

State Sen. Pat Browne’s district, which includes Allentown and western and northern Lehigh County, has more than 2,700 children unable to get access, Druckenmiller said.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s Universal Free Breakfast Program goes into effect Oct. 1 and will run through the end of the 2022-23 school year.

It covers children enrolled in public schools, charter schools, career and technology schools, and child care institutions that participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.


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