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Why Early Childhood Education

Throughout the more than 110-year history of Milton Hershey School, both the School and the Hershey Trust Company have sought to find new ways to expand and enhance the impact of Milton and Catherine Hershey's vision.

The enrollment of the School reached a historic high at the opening of the 2019-20 academic year – with plans to grow more – and Milton Hershey School Trust assets have increased substantially. An opportunity now exists to expand and enhance that impact through early childhood education in a way that is consistent with the Hersheys' intent and vision. The Early Childhood Education Initiative (ECE Initiative) will serve even more children from economically disadvantaged and at-risk backgrounds through education.

The Need for Early Childhood Education, Especially Among Economically Disadvantaged Children

Kindergarden teacher with three children sitting on a floor

Research suggests participation in quality ECE programs can directly improve children's learning and development. Additionally, research has shown that the highest success and the best return in early childhood development in disadvantaged families results from programs that begin as early as possible, from birth through age 5.

 

Early Childhood Education in Pennsylvania

Critical Unmet Need

There is a significant and growing need for early childhood education among economically disadvantaged populations in Pennsylvania.

80-85%

of children under age 5 in Pennsylvania living at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level don't have access to quality early childhood education.

Long-lasting Potential Impacts

Studies show that early childhood education can enhance a child's educational, cognitive, social and emotional development, and physical well-being with positive, lasting impacts.

  • Increased cognitive and social-emotional abilities
  • Increased educational attainment
  • Increased future employment earnings
  • Higher achievement test scores
  • Decreased special education and grade repetition
  • Better health and longevity

In Pennsylvania specifically, a substantial need for early childhood education exists. Across the Commonwealth, approximately 345,000 children from birth to age 5 live below 185% of the Federal Poverty Line and do not have access to high-quality early childhood education.

The Early Childhood Education Initiative and Milton Hershey School

In approving the ECE Initiative, the Boards and management of Milton Hershey School and the Hershey Trust Company were clear and focused on ensuring that the School will remain the priority for funding from the Milton Hershey School Trust.

Investment in the School, its programs, and, of course, its students and staff, is continuous and ongoing. The Boards and management of the School and the Hershey Trust Company have and will continue to fully fund and invest in the School in a way that ensures the School's ability to deliver positive outcomes and transform the lives of students. That will not change.

The primary focus of the School has always been and continues to be the children it serves and those who will benefit from its services. Educational development is the centerpiece of the School's Core Model and will remain the focal point for the ECE Initiative that will be provided through separate entities affiliated with Milton Hershey School. Experience shows that the earlier children are involved in educational outreach, the greater the impact on their success later in life.

Through prudent management, the Milton Hershey School Trust assets have grown substantially and have historically produced more income than is needed for full funding of the School. Even with planned enrollment growth, the School Trust is projected to earn income in excess of what is needed for full funding of the School.

The funding for the ECE Initiative will be drawn from a limited portion of the annual and accumulated income of the Milton Hershey School Trust, as needed, for the initial construction of up to six Early Childhood Resource Centers and their operations. That funding is estimated to total up to $350 million over approximately six years. The far larger portion of Trust income will be reserved for the School, ensuring the continued full funding of and investment in its long-term success.

"As alumni, we know all too well the difference that a great education and resources can have in the lives of young people. The School's proposed initiative has the opportunity to help transform early childhood education in Pennsylvania and fill a critical need for families who want the best for their children, but may not have the means or access."

Michael Mulderig '71, Milton Hershey School Alumni Association President