Private, non-profit preschools offer parents alternatives to public pre-K programs. The Pennsylvania Department of Education regulates which preschools need a license. If a preschool does not need a license, there are fewer requirements to meet. If a preschool needs a license, school owners must comply with state law, submit an application and be approved before operating the preschool.
Licensing of Church-Based Preschools
A preschool owned and operated by a church or other religious organization is exempt from obtaining a license. However, a school owner can choose to license the school. Parents wishing to send their students to a church-based preschool may want to ask if the school is licensed. Licensing the school requires additional steps and safeguards which may help protect pre-school students.
Licensing of Non-Church Based Preschools
Regardless of non-profit status, preschools not operated by a church are required to obtain a license of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. To apply for a license, school owners must review and comply with state laws regulating private academic schools, as set out in Title 22, Chapter 53 of the Pennsylvania Code.
Title 22 requires that the minimum age for entrance into preschool cannot be less than 2 years, 7 months before the first day of the school year. These age requirements do not apply to church based preschools, which are an option for parents wishing to send younger students to preschool.
Title 22 also regulates preschool facilities in a variety of ways. For example, there must be 35 square feet of floor space per child, and children must have access to safe outdoor play areas. There are also specific requirements for restroom availability and safe methods of heating in preschool facilities.
Title 22 sets forth the educational and experience requirements for staff members. Teachers obtain certification, along with a minimum of 24 credit hours in early childhood education or two years of experience working in early childhood education. Aides, teacher’s assistants, and directors also have specific educational and experience requirements.
Preschools are required to plan for at least two hours of instruction per day, and must include a wide range of academic areas, including language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Teachers must write lesson plans with specific objectives.