January 9, 2020

Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Maximum Benefit Increased

For Fiscal Year 2019-20, the maximum benefit for the Rising STARS Tuition Assistance (RSTA) program has increased to $8,000 per individual.


Administered by The Pennsylvania Key, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL)’s RSTA program helps cover a portion of tuition costs for Pennsylvania’s early childhood educators. Tuition costs net of other funding sources such as scholarships, stipends, discounts, or grants (except the Pell Grant) are used to determine the amount of assistance, with the Fiscal  Year 2019-20 maximum benefit listed as $8,000. It is recommended completed applications be submitted at least four weeks prior to the start of the course, or prior to the tuition due date, whichever is first.

More Information on Rising STARS Tuition Assistance

For eligibility requirements, the application process, and more, visit the Pennsylvania Key website.

*Information provided by PA Early Ed News

For more information for professionals, visit Trying Together’s professional development page.


July 5, 2019

General Assistance Program Ending August 1, 2019

As required by Act 12 of 2019, which amended 62 P.S. § 403.2(a), the General Assistance program will end on August 1, 2019. No General Assistance cash assistance will be dispersed after July 31, 2019.

Additional Benefits Information

Current General Assistance recipients were notified of this change via mail. If they are currently receiving other benefits like Medical Assistance or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), those benefits will continue. The Department of Human Services (DHS) will notify clients before making changes to other benefits for any reason.

This change will likely result in an additional need for resources from charitable and social service organizations around the commonwealth. DHS is working closely with their partners to identify potential resources for people affected by this change.

Receiving Benefits

If you, someone you know, or someone you work with currently receives or thinks they qualify for General Assistance, they may qualify for other benefits. Individuals can contact their local County Assistance Office or apply online via COMPASS at

More Information

For more information, contact the DHS Helpline at 1-800-692-7462.

TDD Services are available at 1-800-451-5886.

*Information provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services


July 1, 2019

Fred Rogers Educators’ Neighborhood to Launch

Reflecting on a piece she wrote in December 2018, Melissa Butler identifies long-term benefits observed with the same group of children five months after the initial observation. Additionally, the Fred Rogers Center announced that they will be launching “Educators’ Neighborhood: Learning and Growing Together” in support of early childhood teachers.


In December 2018, Melissa Butler wrote a blog article named, “Beechwood Kindergarteners Learn with Mister Rogers,” observing LeeAnne Kreuger’s kindergarten classroom as they gathered every Friday morning to watch an episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Labeled “Mister Rogers Friday,” teachers selected an episode each week for their students based on key themes, needs, or interests expressed in the classroom.

What they observed from April through June 2018 was that by the end of the school year, the children were actively singing along, naming characters, and making fun connections throughout the school day. In addition to this, teachers noticed benefits as well, having significant learning opportunities to reflect on child development, cultural relevancy, and ways to weave Fred Rogers’ lessons into the school day.

Five months after, this same group of children continues to watch a new episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” every week. By doing so, they’re still observing significant impacts and benefits.

Benefits for Children

Butler highlights that this group of children:

  • talk with each other during and after each Picture-Picture video because they have so many questions and connections;
  • know the difference between real and make-believe;
  • sing songs with confidence; answer Mister Rogers’ questions with eager attention;
  • allow for the silence and slowness of episode moments; and
  • have come to trust in the learning and joy each episode bring during and in the classroom.
Benefits for Educators

Teachers have also displayed key benefits, including:

  • more trust in their instincts;
  • more collaboration with each other;
  • more sharing of personal stories with students;
  • more confidence with developmentally appropriate practice;
  • more improvisation with what they choose to do after each episode; and
  • an overall approach that trusts in the larger picture of what they do as teachers.


Needless to say, the benefits of incorporating meaningful videos, especially those of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” are substantial. When educators and students are allotted a period to slow down, reflect, and talk with one another about influential topics, all parties benefit in and out of the classroom. For more, read Butler’s full blog piece.

About Educators’ Neighborhood

Educators’ Neighborhood: Learning and Growing Together is a place for educators to learn more and with each other, inspired by the life and work of Fred Rogers. Fred Rogers Center will grow an expanded community of educators to study episodes of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” read from the Fred Rogers Center Archive, and generate new ideas together connected with their daily practice with young children.

If you’re interested in joining, sign up for news, register for Educators’ Neighborhood Online, or apply to be part of the local Educators’ Neighborhood Learning Community.

More Information

For more information, read Butler’s full blog piece.

Share this flyer with your network.


May 29, 2019

Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Sign Up Moving to PD Registry

Beginning Fall 2019, applicants will apply for the Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program through the PD Registry.

About the Program

The Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program pays 95% of tuition costs for eligible college coursework taken by early learning professionals, with a maximum benefit of $6,000 per individual each fiscal year (July 1 – June 30). The program covers tuition costs only and does not include books, materials, or fees. Tuition costs net of other funding sources such as scholarships, stipends, discounts, or grants (except the Pell Grant) are used to determine the amount of assistance. It is recommended completed applications be submitted at least four weeks prior to the start of the course, or prior to the tuition due date, whichever is first.

Access the Program Before Fall 2019

During the transition, The Pennsylvania Key is still currently accepting applications for the 2018-19 fiscal year and summer classes. Early learning professionals taking coursework beginning before fall semester are welcome to apply using the current process in the Portal. At this time, applications will not be reviewed for the fall semester.

More Information

For new eligibility requirements and to stay up-to-date on the ongoing changes, visit the Pennsylvania Key website.

*Information provided by The Pennsylvania Key