Erie Times: Erie County officials advocate for pre-K funding
May 9, 2018 by Madeleine O’Neill

ALBION — Spending $40 million on pre-K education could save Pennsylvania nearly $150 million and reduce the number of people incarcerated in the long run, according to a new report.

A group of local legislators and law enforcement officials gathered at the State Correctional Institution at Albion with state Corrections Secretary John Wetzel on Tuesday to release the report and to voice their support for additional state funding for early childhood education.

“We know from years of experience that we can’t simply arrest, prosecute and incarcerate our way out of the crime problems,” Erie Police Chief Dan Spizarny said. “We also need to implement strategies that keep people from turning to crime in the first place. Education needs to be the focal point of that strategy.”

The report, which was prepared by the national anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, found that Pennsylvania could see economic benefits of $34,000 per child who receives pre-k services.

Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed $40 million in additional funding for early childhood education in the 2018-19 state budget. The report concluded that the funding would serve 4,400 children and reap long-term savings of $150 million. The savings would include reductions in corrections costs and increases in the children’s future wages, according to the report.

“We’re not going to get an immediate return on investment a year from now,” Wetzel said. “We’re going to get a return on investment a generation from now. Our responsibility to them and to our communities is to have the guts to make a real investment.”

The speakers included Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri, Erie County Sheriff John Loomis, state Sen. Dan Laughlin, and state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-1st Dist., among others.

“Finding the funding is always the struggle for anything that you want to do, but there seems to always be a way to fund the things that people deem important,” said Laughlin, of Millcreek Township, R-49th Dist. “I’m a strong supporter of educating our kids, so the funding for this is very important to me.”

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