Milton Standard Journal: Seeking funding for early childhood education
June 8, 2018 by Kevin Mertz
Rep. Lynda Schlegel-Culver (R-108) believes the 2018-2019 state budget will include increased funding for Pre-K Counts programs. She doubts it will be to the tune of the $40 million being asked for by a nonprofit organization which held a roundtable discussion Thursday afternoon at the Milton YMCA.
The discussion was spearheaded by Mission: Readiness, described as a being comprised of retired admirals and generals “strengthening national security by ensuring kids stay in school, stay fit and stay out of trouble.”
Steve Doster, Pennsylvania state director for Mission: Readiness, and Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Thomas J. Wilson III were two of the speakers at the event. They released a report which calls for “$40 million in new state funding to serve an additional 4,400 at-risk children with high quality school day, school year Pre-K programs,” such as Head Start and Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts.
Following the roundtable, Schlegel-Culver said Pre-K Counts programming will likely receive an increase in 2018-2019, but she doubted it would be $40 million.
“It’s rare that everybody gets what they’re asking,” she said. “When the governor does a budget proposal, it’s just a proposal.”
Any increase would be drawn from the state’s General Fund, Schlegel-Culver said.
Last year, she said Pre-K Counts programming received $172 million in state funding, while Head Start programs received $54 million.
Schlegel-Culver said she expects a budget agreement to be reached by the June 30 deadline.
During the roundtable, Schlegel-Culver said Pre-K Counts funding has increased by $88.6 million since she took office in 2010. Head Start funding has increased by 44 percent.
She told the group that she will always speak to the importance of funding early childhood education.
“When we talk to House members who don’t have children, the conversation is a little tougher,” Schlegel-Culver said.
She likened funding early childhood programs to building a house. Every home must be built on a solid foundation.
Those lobbying for the increase to Pre-K funding provided a variety of statistics in an effort to back up their positions on the importance of funding such programs.
Wilson quoted a Department of Defense study which found 71 percent of individuals age 17 to 24 are ineligible for military service.
According to Wilson, that is due to the individuals either failing to graduate from high school, failing to pass military entrance exams, or being in poor health or physical conditioning.
“The talents the military is looking for in young men and women is the exact talents they’re looking for in business,” Wilson said. “It translates to everything we know and see in our own communities.”
He indicated it’s important to start providing quality education to children at an early age in order to reverse those statistics.
Wilson said 106,000 eligible children in Pennsylvania lack access to quality early childhood programming.
“The ultimate goal of all of this is preparing all of our children to be citizen ready for their lives,” Wilson said.
Expanding on the 106,000 figure presented by Wilson, Joanne Troutman, president and CEO of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, recited numbers exemplifying how many local children are in need of access to quality early childhood programming.
In Northumberland County, she said 2,040 children under 5 are eligible for such programs. However, only 255 are enrolled.
In Snyder County, there are 660 eligible children, of which 91 are enrolled. In Union County, 590 children are eligible and 57 are enrolled.
To be eligible, families must have an income up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.