OVER THE past several years families across Pennsylvania have had to struggle in the face of drastic education cuts; and despite Gov. Corbett’s recent attempts to make up for them, the negative side effects and harm that they have brought upon our students’ education remains.
In the coming months, as Harrisburg moves to debate the budget, we should truly consider how we can transform our state for the better and establish a legacy that will last for decades. Pennsylvania is at a crucial time. Like hot steel it is ready to be molded, and we must strike.
The best way to do this is by fostering and investing in a widely available but often overlooked resource: our young children.
With this in mind, I will introduce legislation that creates universal pre-K programs and mandatory kindergarten in Pennsylvania.
Our education system is the bedrock of our society. It is integral to the health and success of our neighborhoods and our state. A well educated workforce leads to better economic performance, a reduction of crime and even better health.
These are only a few examples of the infinite ripple effect education has on us all.
The U.S. Census Bureau has projected that in 2025 there will be over 22,000 Pennsylvania children under the age of 5. That is 22,000 children we can set on a path to academic excellence; children who will be prepared to lead and contribute to our economy from the onset of their development.
We cannot ignore the indisputable evidence that supports the implementation of universal pre-K and the good brought about by kindergarten programs.
Children who participate in high-quality early-childhood education have a higher performance in reading, speaking and language development – and social skills.
What’s more, children from low-income areas who are enrolled in such programs are 40 percent less likely to be held back or need special education, 30 percent more likely to complete high school and twice as likely to attend college.
Over the course of a year, attendance in kindergarten strengthens a child’s social development, and, on average, improves student’s reading scores by ten points and their math scores by eight points.
These benefits are prolonged, leading to higher pay and a better lifestyle. They are the factors that contribute to lower crime rates and better living standards. By establishing universal pre-K in Pennsylvania we are allowing people to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps.
Once we have created a sturdy foundation for our young children we must continue our pursuit of excellence. It is hard to imagine the absence of kindergarten in our children’s education and development, and yet there are states that do not require it. What is even harder to believe is that Pennsylvania is among them.
We have the ability to be transformative and the path to creating a better tomorrow is clear; we need only to act.
By pursuing funding mechanisms, such as the Marcellus Shale extraction tax, we can make this reasonable and commonsense legislation a reality.
As a new father, when I look at my daughter, I see all the promise in the world, and like any parent I wonder what she will make of herself.
Prior to her birth I had advocated for a sound and well-established education system, but I can say now that when I look at her I know we must move forward. We cannot afford to do otherwise.
If we wish to have a Pennsylvania, and an America, that is built to compete in the ever-changing global economy we must be prepared to invest in the children who will build tomorrow.
We must not allow ourselves to fall behind only to look back and say, “If only.”
Brendan F. Boyle represents the 170th Legislative District in Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He was elected in 2008 and is currently serving his third term in office.