Erie Times: Iroquois Dedicates Expanded Early Learning Classroom

October 5, 2016

Iroquois Elementary School formally dedicated its expanded prekindergarten classroom Tuesday.

The district reinstated its prekindergarten class in partnership with the Early Connections program in February. The class served 13 students. The class this school year serves 30 students, Iroquois schools Superintendent Shane Murray said.

The expansion was funded by a $25 million increase in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts funding an additional $5 million for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program in the 2016-17 state budget.

Across Erie County, the increased funding is paying for prekindergarten education for almost 200 additional students this school year, said Ron DiNicola, co-chairman of Pre-K for PA in northwestern Pennsylvania. Early Connections, Erie and Millcreek school districts, and the Downtown YMCA received increased prekindergarten funding.

But more funding is needed to reach more children, Murray said. Almost 2,500 income-eligible children in Erie County still do not have access to publicly funded, high-quality prekindergarten education, he said.

“There are a lot of things we have to do in education, and prekindergarten is not one of them. But it definitely is one of the things we should do. Data shows that the investment in prekindergarten education is returned seven times over,” Murray said.

Those returns include savings in costs for students repeating grades or requiring special education services, higher future wages for graduates and less cost for crime, said Erie County Sheriff John Loomis. Loomis and state legislators from Erie County attended Tuesday’s Iroquois prekindergarten dedication.

A study of Pennsylvania’s inmate population shows that more than half have not graduated from high school, Loomis said.

“This revealing statistic is more reason for the imperative that law enforcement leaders place on educational success, which is best achieved by children getting a strong early educational foundation,” Loomis said.

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