Early childhood education advocates call for universal pre-K

May 23, 2016 By Lexi Belculfine / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A group of advocates, school board members, teachers and Pittsburgh City Council members called for affordable, high-quality, inclusive early education at a press conference this morning in the City-County Building.

“We know that early education gives children a chance to succeed later in life. We know that it allows parents to work, earning an income and creating a sense of pride,” said Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who spearheaded legislation with the women’s caucus in December to create the Office of Early Childhood for the City of Pittsburgh. “The data shows that when children attend a high-quality early education they are more qualified to start kindergarten, less likely to drop out of school, more likely to attend college, and something like 70 percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime.”

In Allegheny County, there are more than 20,000 three- and four-year-olds without access to publicly funded, high-quality Pre-K, according to Pittsburgh Raising Every Kid: PreK Now.

Gov. Tom Wolf has asked for a $90 million increase in the 2016-17 budget from the current year for early childhood education, according to his office.

Cara Ciminillo, executive director for Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children, said that while early childhood education has bipartisan support, finding funding isn’t always as easy.

Such education would be more readily available with a $500 million investment over four fiscal years at the state level, she said.

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