The United Way of Bucks County unveiled a notable expansion to its Pre-K Counts program recently.
The expansion will amplify access to free early childhood education throughout the county.
The move comes after the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning awarded the Falls Township-based organization a grant of $4.49 million.
With the expansion, approximately 450 kids across the county are expected to receive free, quality Pre-K education, marking a 44 percent surge from the previous 2022-2023 academic year.
Families will now be able to access the program at 16 of Bucks County’s top-tier early education establishments.
Pre-K Counts provides early education to 3- and 4-year-old children at no cost to eligible families.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be bringing Pre-K Counts to more families,” said Kristi Moreno, impact director for Pre-K Education at United Way of Bucks County. “This funding allows us to extend our reach even further, setting a greater number of children in our community up for lifelong success.”
Moreno highlighted that new sites for the program have been added with strategic intent. The goal was to ensure that no family is over 15 minutes away from a partner site, maximizing convenience and accessibility.
The program’s expansion comes at a pivotal moment, the nonprofit said.
The United for ALICE, a research center, has spotlighted a concerning trend. While 7 percent of households in Bucks County fall below the poverty line, an additional 27 percent are identified as Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) — a 12.5 percent surge over the last two years.
“Pre-K Counts is absolutely crucial for ALICE. It helps kids enter Kindergarten ready to learn, but it also helps more Bucks County parents get to work. This is a win for kids, parents, employers, K-12 schools, and our whole community,” said Marissa Christie, president and CEO at United Way of Bucks County.
United Way of Bucks County is encouraging new applications for the 2023-2024 academic year. To ensure the funds remain allocated for Bucks County, however, these slots need to be secured promptly. For enrollment details and more, community members are directed to www.uwbucks.org/prekhelp.
United Way of Bucks County Pre-K Counts slots are now available in Bensalem, Bristol, Churchville, Doylestown, Holland, Langhorne, Kintnersville, Morrisville, Penndel, Southampton, and Quakertown.
Editor’s Note: Publisher Tom Sofield is a member of the United Way of Bucks County Board of Directors.