August 12, 2023

Report: State of Early Care and Education in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, in collaboration with Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA, released the State of Early Care and Education in Pennsylvania.


Pennsylvania’s comprehensive early care and education system spans a child’s formative years, from birth to age five. This report looks deeper at Pennsylvania’s child care and pre-k system complexities and recommends the improvements necessary to ensure the system functions equitably and increases access and affordability for all families in the commonwealth.

Key findings include:

  • 68% of young children in Pennsylvania have all available caregivers in the workforce and require external care arrangements.
  • On average, costs for infant child care comprise approximately 17.5% of the Pennsylvania median family income.
  • In Pennsylvania, the average hourly wage of a child care worker is less than $12.50/hour, which is less than $26,000 annually.
  • Only 46% of all child care capacity in Pennsylvania meets high-quality standards, and only 35% of providers serving children under 5 in subsidized child care have achieved high-quality.
  • Only 43% of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds in the state participate in high-quality, publicly funded pre-k, leaving over 87,000 without access to a high-quality program.
  • Only 23% of all children served in Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Programs in Pennsylvania are Non-Hispanic Black, compared to 41% of children identifying as Non-Hispanic White.

Policy recommendations in the report include:

  • Increase state funding for the child care sector to help build an infrastructure that will support providers to cover the true cost of providing high-quality care.
  • Implement a wage scale for the child care workforce to diminish teacher turnover and stabilize the sector.
  • Increase state pre-k investments in Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Programs to expand access to more 3- and 4-year-olds.
  • Develop a pay parity policy for pre-k teachers that reflects wages provided to teachers in the K-12 system with equivalent degrees and credentials.
  • Require the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) to produce a report every three years that provides a clear picture of the early childhood workforce, using state- and county-level data, and include recommendations on how Pennsylvania can better support the early childhood profession.
  • Expand the number of high-quality providers by increasing incentives within Pennsylvania’s Quality Rating and Improvement System, Keystone STARS.
  • Conduct an equity audit of Pennsylvania’s early care and education system to understand better changes needed to ensure equitable access for all children.
  • Cease market rate surveys and conduct cost estimation studies using an approved cost modeling tool to determine the true cost of care.

Read the full report on the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children website.