FOX 56: A push for PA Pre-K programs to keep people out of prisons
By: Viktoria Hallikaar April 18, 2019

Pre-K is not just about kids learning their ABCs and 123s, it’s also setting them up for a lifetime of success.

“Building the right foundation is key here,” said Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis.

Lawmakers, police chiefs, and other local representatives were at the state correctional institution at Dallas Thursday pushing for an investment in pre-K.

“Crime prevention starts outside of these walls and these fences and really starts in the classroom for our most vulnerable kids,” explained John Wetzel, the state Department of Corrections Secretary.

“What we’re trying to do is invest in kids now so that we don’t have to deal with them later in the criminal justice system,” added Wilkes-Barre City Police chief Joseph Coffay.

Currently, PA spends $3.2 billion on corrections each year.

A report says a $50 million investment in high-quality Pre-K programs would save $150 million in criminal justice costs, but it’s not just about the money.

“This is about serving children in our community and I think when you come together to do that, we don’t worry about what letter is after your name,” said 20th District State Sen. Lisa Baker. She also chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Governor Wolf proposed investing the $50 million in his 2019-2020 budget.

According to a study, that would add 5,500 Pre-K spots.

Giving the kids across PA access to the classrooms they need.

“We go over things like we treat people the way we want to be treated, to have manners, to have respect, to learn to cooperate,” explained Wilkes-Barre Academy Pre-K teacher Deborah Cooper. “All these things as a beginning will be fabulous as they get older.”

A strong foundation many behind bars might not have had.

“What we’re experiencing today is literally decades of neglect,” said State Rep. Eddie Pashinski of the 121st district.

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