MCKEESPORT (KDKA) — While their children colored, parents in the McKeesport Area School District registered their children for full-day kindergarten.

“Education is everything with children. Without education, how will they succeed?” says Phalan Jones, a McKeesport parent.

“The longer that education gets delayed, the more I think that affects the development of a child,” adds Dan Hertzler, a White Oak parent.

Dr. Catherine Lobaugh directs early childhood education and says full-day kindergarten is essential for children.

“It’s that strong foundation to give them those 21st century skills, critical thinking, problem solving, working together, interacting on a team, collaborating, being those kind of thinkers,” she said.

But Gov. Corbett wants to eliminate accountability block grant funding that helps area school districts provide full-day kindergarten.

As school districts are forced to consider cutting back full day kindergarten to half a day because of these budget cuts, educators say this is the wrong way to go.

“It is so critical for a child to have kindergarten,” says local child expert Michelle Figlar of the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children.

Figlar says a new study urges full-day kindergarten for all children.

“There’s so much children want to learn, need to learn to go into first grade that if we limit their time, we’re just limiting their opportunity.”

Melissa Hale teaches kindergarteners and hopes Harrisburg won’t hurt her 5-year olds.

“From where they are in August to where we are now, I’ll have students reading fluently when they’re ready to move to first grade,” says Hale. “It’s an awesome, wonderful thing to see.”

And parents have a simple plea to lawmakers.

“Education is the most important thing in a child’s life,” says Rosie Palochko, a McKeesport parent. “Half a day, really they can’t learn as much as a full day.”

Most local school districts want to maintain their kindergarten program, even if state lawmakers approve these budget cuts.

But it is challenging.

Most school districts could lose a couple hundred thousand dollars — some a lot more.

Educators are hoping parents will talk to their legislators to keep full-day kindergarten alive and well in Pennsylvania.

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