Early Childhood Action Day Draws Advocates Rallying for Pre-K; Gov. Wolf Addresses Energetic Crowd

New National Report Shows PA Failing to Make Gains in Pre-k Access

Harrisburg, PA – Pre-K for PA supporters and early childhood advocates from across the state gathered in Harrisburg today for the annual Early Childhood Action Day. Gov. Tom Wolf and Acting Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas led a special kickoff event in the Forum Auditorium in the morning, followed by an afternoon rally in the Capitol Rotunda.

“I’m proud to welcome the over 200 pre-k and early childhood education advocates to the Capitol today that are here to encourage the General Assembly to meet the need for more high-quality early education programs for thousands of children across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “I value the support of the strong Pre-K for PA coalition for my budget, which makes historic and significant investments in early childhood education. My proposed $120 million increase in high-quality early childhood education is projected to create 14,000 new slots for children to enroll in early childhood education – growing enrollment by 75 percent.”

Gov. Wolf has proposed increasing state funding for high-quality pre-k by $120 million in the coming fiscal year so about 14,000 more Pennsylvania 3- and 4-year-olds can benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity.

“Over the past year and a half, Pre-K for PA has been leading the push for expansion alongside the thousands of early childhood advocates who have been fighting for kids’ access to early learning for so many years,” said Jodi Askins, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC), a founding partner in the Pre-K for PA campaign.

“We are encouraged by the governor’s proposal and enthusiastic support of individual legislators from across the state, but urge action in this budget year. Each year that passes without a substantial commitment to early childhood education, another group of young learners is missing the crucial elements of development only a young mind can experience.”

A new report out Monday from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) shows Pennsylvania is failing to make any notable progress on expanding pre-k access. NIEER’s latest “State of Preschool” report shows:

  • Pennsylvania dropped to 15th in the nation in pre-k access for 3-year olds in 2013-14, down from 14th the prior year.
  • Pennsylvania remains stuck at 30th in the nation in pre-k access for 4-year olds – the same ranking we held the prior year.

The Rotunda rally included: Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster); Rep. Mark Longietti (D-Mercer); Steven Wray, Executive Director of the Economy League of Philadelphia; Michelle Figlar, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children and incoming deputy secretary for Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development & Early Learning; early childhood educators; and parents.

Pre-K for PA is an issue campaign supported by individuals and organizations across Pennsylvania who believe that investing in our children is the right choice and an urgent necessity. Our vision is that every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania will have access to high-quality pre-k. We will not endorse nor oppose candidates, but rather we will advocate on behalf of this vision for Pennsylvania’s children, schools and communities. For more information www.prekforpa.org.

 

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