Former Governors, Military, Business & Civic Leaders from Across PA Call on Legislature to Fund Pre-K
Rendell, Schweiker call for $40 million investment to expand pre-k to thousands of at-risk kids across PA
Harrisburg, PA (May 23, 2018)– Former Governors Edward G. Rendell and Mark S. Schweiker led a group of influential business, civic, and law enforcement leaders from across the state today in support of continued investment in pre-k, urging the Pennsylvania legislature and the governor to expand access to thousands of at-risk kids in the final 2018-19 budget.
Generals, admirals and other senior military leaders who are members of Mission: Readiness echoed the call for targeted investments that will help young Americans grow up to be educated, healthy and fit to do the work of our nation either as a soldier or a civilian.
In multiple letters to leadership offices of the Pennsylvania legislature, the signers urged leaders in Harrisburg to position the commonwealth to provide access to Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance for all eligible children and begin to address middle-class pre-k affordability concerns by 2022. Specifically, they called for the legislature to fully fund $40 million in additional funding, proposed by Governor Tom Wolf, as part of the 2018-19 final state budget.
If realized, $40 million in additional funding for high-quality pre-k will serve an additional 4,400 three- and four-year-olds across the commonwealth. Currently, there are more than 106,200 or 61% of eligible children throughout Pennsylvania who qualify for high-quality, publicly funded pre-k but remain unserved.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is the full text of both letters. For a list of signatories, please visit www.XXXXXXX:
As members of the Pre-K for PA Leadership Council, we thank you for your commitment to growing access to high-quality pre-k. Over the last three years, more than 10,000 eligible children have gained access to high-quality programs like Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and Head Start State Supplemental Assistance. Despite these historic gains, 61 percent of eligible three- and four-year-olds (more than 106,000 children) lack access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k in the commonwealth.
As such, Pennsylvania is losing ground as compared to other states providing high-quality pre-k. Currently, the commonwealth ranks 18thin per capita pre-k investments when compared to 30 other states who have comparable programs.
Looking ahead to the 2018-19 state budget, we again urge you to position Pennsylvania to provide access to Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and Head Start State Supplemental Assistance for all eligible children and begin to address middle-class pre-k affordability concerns by 2022.
Specifically, we ask you to expand state-funded pre-k opportunities to an additional 4,400 eligible children by supporting the proposed $40 million increase in the final 2018-19 state budget. Additionally, we ask you to also prioritize funding for other early learning initiatives like expanding the reach of high-quality child care and evidence-based home visiting programs.
Research is clear that continued investments in high-quality pre-k will set us on a path to reduce educational, public welfare and incarceration costs and have the most important added benefit of ensuring that all children are ready to succeed.
Thank you very much for taking the time to consider this correspondence.
Mark Schweiker, 44thGovernor, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Ed Rendell, 45thGovernor, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
The generals, admirals and other senior military leaders who are members of Mission: Readiness support targeted investments that will help young Americans grow up to be educated, healthy, and fit to do the work of our nation either as a soldier or a civilian.
Unfortunately, the pool of qualified men and women capable of military service today is diminishing. In Pennsylvania, 71 percent of Pennsylvania youth ages 17 to 24 are ineligible for military service due to problems with obesity, education, drug abuse, or crime, according to the Department of Defense.
Pennsylvania employers are also concerned about workforce readiness. According to a recent Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry survey, more than half – 52 percent — say they have great difficulty recruiting qualified job candidates. Moreover, 56 percent believe it will get harder by 2021. Only 21 percent – one in five – rate the readiness of our current labor force for their jobs as excellent or good.
The skills employers need are all built on a foundation of solid academics, but too few Pennsylvania children are achieving in school.
- 61 percent of Pennsylvania eighth graders are NOT proficient in reading, 64 percent are NOT proficient in math, and 67 percent are NOT proficient in science, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. For the many children in economically disadvantaged families, average math scores are 32 points lower than their better-off peers.
- Only 45 percent of Pennsylvania public school students meet all predictors of college success.
- More than 15 percent of Pennsylvania’s high school freshmen fail to graduate within four years. Among economically disadvantaged students, it’s nearly one quarter.
Fortunately, a solution exists in greater access to early childhood education. Decades of research have shown that high-quality pre-k and other early childhood education programs can help better prepare our children by boosting educational achievement and high school graduation rates, deterring youth from crime, and reducing obesity rates, all while providing a significant return on investment.
We thank you for the progress Pennsylvania has made progress in recent years by expanding funding for high-quality early learning programs like Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance, however access to these high-quality early learning programs remains very limited. Approximately 106,000 eligible Pennsylvania three- and four-year-olds do not have access to these publicly funded pre-k programs due to insufficient funding.
In the interest of fostering the human capital that ensures future military and economic readiness, we respectfully ask that Pennsylvania’s policy makers continue to boost access to high-quality pre-k. Specifically, we ask you to grow state funding for the PA Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance line items by a combined $40 million.
High-quality pre-kindergarten plays a critical role in ensuring that our next generation is academically fit and citizen ready.