New Report Details How Pennsylvania Can Step Up Investments in High-Quality Pre-k

United Way of Erie Co., Other Philanthropies Stress Need to Reach More At-Risk Children

 ERIE, PA (Jan. 13) – Pre-k advocates, including United Way officials, today called on Pennsylvania to increase its commitment to making high-quality pre-k more accessible to the commonwealth’s young learners, particularly those at greatest risk of academic failure due to economic disadvantages.

The push to increase pre-k access is bolstered by a new report – “The Case for Pre-k in PA: Smart Investment in Kids, Communities and the Commonwealth” – that outlines a multi-year investment strategy Pennsylvania can implement to provide high-quality pre-k to most at-risk children, as well as some middle-income children.

“High-quality pre-k has broad benefits for students, schools and communities, ranging from improving school readiness and graduation rates to reducing the need for special education services and criminal justice costs,” said Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, which produced the report. “Yet too few young learners are benefiting from this once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity, and many of those missing out are at-risk kids.”

The report finds that if Pennsylvania were to increase state funding for high-quality pre-k gradually over this fiscal year and the following three years, we could make high-quality pre-k available to more than 40 percent of the commonwealth’s 3- and 4-year-olds, compared to fewer than 20 percent who benefited in 2013.

United Way of Erie County President Bill Jackson noted only about 30 percent of Erie County’s 3- and 4-year-olds – 2,125 out of 6,864 children – were in publicly funded, high-quality pre-k last year. More than 2,400 of the county children who missed out on pre-k are in lower income households, a factor that puts them at risk of academic failure.

“We know from research that high-quality pre-k can have the greatest benefits for these at-risk children in terms of preparing them for kindergarten and putting them on the solid road to success in school and beyond,” Jackson said.

United Way of Pennsylvania President Kristen Rotz noted many United Way affiliates across the commonwealth have made school readiness a priority issue, and high-quality pre-k is “among the best and most cost-effective initiatives for preparing children for success in school and beyond.”

“United Ways and other community-based philanthropic organizations have made great efforts over the years to promote high-quality pre-k as a critical part of developing well-educated children and strong communities,” Rotz said. “But as with so many efforts to strengthen communities, it takes a collaboration. In this case, we need the commonwealth to bolster its efforts to fund high-quality pre-k programs to reach those children who are missing out.”

The “Case for Pre-k in PA” report was prepared by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC), a founding partner of the statewide, nonpartisan Pre-K for PA campaign. The report and supporting information, including county-level data on pre-k access, can be found at or