The Intelligencer: Former governors Rendell, Schweiker urge more funding for pre-kindergarten
January 17, 2018 by Chris English

The two former Pennsylvania chief executives spoke during a press conference at the Bucks County Intermediate Unit in Doylestown Township.

Former Pennsylvania governors Ed Rendell and Mark Schweiker lent their voices to the call for more state funding for quality pre-kindergarten during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Bucks County Intermediate Unit in Doylestown Township.

During the event organized by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and Pre-K for PA, both Rendell and Schweiker said they placed high priorities on pre-K spending during their administrations but were often thwarted by their legislatures.

The administration of Gov. Tom Wolf is making good progress, both former governors said. In 2017-18, state funding for pre-K is $226 million — a $30 million increase from last fiscal year and a $90 million hike over the last three years, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children President and CEO Joan Benso said.

But more needs to be done, Rendell and Schweiker said.

“The private sector has stepped up to make contributions to pre-K, but it’s not the private sector’s job,” Rendell said. “The education of our children is one of the core responsibilities of state government. There should not be one child in Pennsylvania not receiving a high quality pre-K education. Our children do better if we lay a foundation of pre-K education and full-day kindergarten.”

A report released Wednesday by Pre-K for PA said that only 36 percent of eligible children in Pennsylvania receive high quality, publicly funded pre-K. That means 112,900 children are not getting it, the report said.

Of the 30 states that publicly fund pre-K at current educational standards, Pennsylvania ranks 18th with per capita spending of $792, the report said. New Jersey is first at $2,706, it added.

According to the report, pre-K investments save taxpayer dollars by reducing the need for special education and remedial instruction in later years, and increases graduation rates and college enrollment, among other benefits.

“Gov. Wolf has made important strides, but the other states are still boxing our ears off,” Rendell said. “If we want to attract the Amazons and other cutting edge businesses to our state, we need to properly educate our kids.”

Both former governors said one of the main reasons Pennsylvania lags behind other states in pre-K funding is simply a reluctance among lawmakers to commit the funds.

“Good or bad, there is a philosophical take on state government that it shouldn’t be responsible for education below kindergarten,” Schweiker said.

Politicians want to look good during campaigns by boasting that they didn’t vote to raise taxes but that is a misguided notion, Rendell said.

“People don’t mind a raise in taxes if they see they are getting something for it,” he said.

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