Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Mission: Pre-K: More state support for early education is vital
By the Editorial Board June 4, 2016

Early-childhood education is so important that even retired admirals and generals are fighting for it.

Mission: Readiness, a children’s advocacy group made up of former military leaders, is part of a 2-year-old coalition demanding that the state invest $90 million more next fiscal year in pre-kindergarten and Head Start programs.

Why? A high-tech military requires highly skilled recruits, while the nation’s lagging performance in science and math portends a diminished global competitiveness, according to a study that Mission: Readiness and the business group ReadyNation released Thursday.

Pre-K is funded by the state, while Head Start receives federal and state funds. The programs for 3- and 4-year-olds provide instruction in math, literacy and other subjects, preparing tykes for the rigors of kindergarten and the challenges that life throws at them later on. Targeting kids at an age when their brains are especially fertile, pre-K and Head Start have been associated with improved performance in key academic subjects, higher school graduation and better college enrollment rates, all translating into higher levels of individual achievement and national gain.

Nearly 176,000 children statewide are eligible for the programs based on family income, but only about 30 percent are enrolled because of limited funding, according to coalition figures. In Allegheny County alone, classes are available only to 42 percent of the 12,577 children eligible. Mission: Readiness, the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children and other coalition members want the state to increase funding by $90 million, to $256 million, for 2016-17. The increase would add 7,400 children to the pre-K and Head Start rolls and give additional hours to another 6,200 who received only partial instruction this year. (Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed an additional $60 million for 2016-2017.)

Read the full editorial here.

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