Scranton Times-Tribune: Scranton-area leaders push for greater funding for pre-K
January 19, 2018

SCRANTON — Funding for quality pre-kindergarten programs matters to more than students and families. Additional funding is vital for the state’s economy, said business and civic leaders Thursday.

“Supporting early learners means a bright future for Pennsylvania and is an essential element to ensuring our region’s strong economic development,” said Peter Danchak, regional president for PNC Bank.

The comments came as Harrisburg organization Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children released its study, “Pre-K Works, So Why Not PA?” The report calls for the state to increase access to pre-K programs for the children who would benefit most.

Only 36 percent of the state’s eligible children benefit from the public funds, and the organization and business leaders are calling for the state to invest an additional $85 million in 2018-19 — with a goal of an additional $225 million by 2020-21 — to serve all at-risk children. The state budgeted $172.3 million for the Pre-K Counts program this year.

Research shows that investing in pre-K saves taxpayer dollars by reducing the need for special education and remedial instruction, and children who attend pre-K are less likely to commit a crime later in life. Every dollar invested in high-quality pre-K returns the state $4 in savings and benefits in the form of reduced crime and increased earning power, according to the organization.

Of the 30 states that make public investments in pre-K, Pennsylvania ranks 18th.

“We know that pre-K works and the widespread, bipartisan support it enjoys is undeniable,” Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, said at the news conference at the offices of the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties. “The 2018 elections present an opportunity for those seeking public office to commit to making Pennsylvania a top state for pre-K investments.”

Ann L. Pipinski, Ed.D., president of Johnson College, said she has seen the impact pre-K programs can have on the workforce and that policymakers should support programs that help children in the most formative years of their lives.

“High-quality pre-K is good for kids, businesses, and it’s good for Pennsylvania,” she said.

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