Citizens Voice: Report: 80 percent of county’s children lack access to quality pre-K

January 20, 2016

WILKES-BARRE — In Luzerne County, only one in five children has access to a high-quality, publicly funded preschool program, according to a new report by an advocacy group that came to the city Tuesday to demand an increase in state funding.

The other 80 percent of the county’s 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in inadequate programs, or none at all, the group’s research revealed.

Those children will be behind when they start school and will be more likely to be a strain on social services and the criminal justice system — which are far more costly than properly funding pre-kindergarten programs, advocates argued during a news conference at the Wilkes-Barre YMCA.

“There are few investments that have as much of a profound impact on kids’ lives as a high-quality, pre-K program,” said Joan Benso, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Partnership for Children. “The lack of access is a troubling statistic.”

In other parts of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the percentage of children without access to quality pre-K programs ranged from 88 percent in Monroe County to 53 percent in Wayne County. In Lackawanna County, the number was 63 percent, according to the report, titled “The Case for Pre-K in PA.”

Overall, the contribution from the state of Pennsylvania toward pre-kindergarten programs is “woefully inadequate,” Benso said.

“Other states have made this a high priority and they’re kicking our butts,” Benso said.

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