The 2014 race for governor is prompting a new coalition of advocates to push for high-quality pre-kindergarten for all Pennsylvania children.

Pre-kindergarten funding in Pennsylvania currently helps fewer than 20 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds, according to the Pennsylvania Head Start Association.

"We're going to be pushing the candidates to make really big commitments to pre-K," said Blair Hyatt, PHSA's executive director.

PHSA is among the ten founding organizations in the Pre-K for PA campaign that launched Thursday.

Diane Koon, director of Head Start in the Community Action Program of Lancaster County, said research shows that children who attend high-quality pre-kindergarten are more likely to advance through school on time and less likely to need special education or remediation services.

"It's a big investment, but there's a big return on the investment, as well," she said.

CAP's Head Start program has 676 slots and a waiting list of 257 children.

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Kara Newhouse is a Lancaster Newspapers staff writer who covers K-12 education trends and policies. She can be reached at or (717) 481-6103. You can also follow @KaraNewhouse on Twitter.

Suggestions, corrections, clarifications, added information welcome