PennLive: Wolf, lawmakers must fund pre-K education in the #PaBudget: Another View

February 9, 2016

By The Pre-K for Pa. Coalition

A curtain raiser to the always eagerly anticipated details in the Governor’s budget address revealed that Gov. Tom Wolf remains committed to make high-quality pre-k available to more kids.

What it didn’t reveal is how to muster the political will to generate necessary new revenue to balance the budget and invest in programs to improve the long-term viability of our state like high quality pre-k education.

Wolf’s proposed multi-year commitment capitalizes on the significant new $30 million investment in pre-k already adopted by the Legislature in the budget passed at the end of December making it possible for over 6,000 children to enroll in pre-k for the remainder of this school year.

Wolf and members of the legislature should also capitalize on the energy of a diverse collection of stakeholders by kicking off the next round of budget discussions with an ambitious investment that keeps us on track to serve all at-risk kids by 2019.

In PennLive’s coverage of the Governor’s pre-k proposal, state Capitol reporter Jan Murphy wrote that “when it comes to preschool, Republican and Democratic lawmakers stand in unison in their support of providing more funding and consider it a wise investment. It also has the support from children’s advocacy groups, district attorneys and military leaders.”

She’s right.

An increasingly broad call for public investment in pre-k from Pennsylvanians of all walks of life is being fueled by the research that demonstrates that 90 percent of brain development occurs before age five.

In the extremely polarized political atmosphere in America, Pennsylvania is poised to make history because uncommon alliances are backing measures to help every child start school ready to learn.

Across the commonwealth, decorated generals and admirals are publicly touting their pre-k support because students who attend high-quality pre-k will someday be entrusted and be more prepared to accept the call to military service. CEO’s are turning up the volume of their call for pre-k because it is an efficient means of helping our state build a more prepared workforce.

District attorneys are arguing for increased access to pre-k because doing so is proven to decrease the chances that a youngster ends up in the courthouse.

This impressive cross section of Pennsylvanians is advancing pre-k because of the evidence that it’s our best shot to significantly increase the share of children who succeed in school, to cut costs for government services, and to support our state’s future economic growth.

The Pre-K for PA coalition, with its 14,000 supporters, believes that the opportunity afforded to young children through pre-k is essential to Pennsylvania’s long-term viability and is actively working to ensure that state revenues are available to balance the state budget and to invest—at a minimum—the Governor’s proposed $90 million increase for this and next fiscal year.

A bold bipartisan push for something as important as access to pre-k has the potential to significantly boost public confidence in our political process.

It would be a welcome shift away from the divisive discourse that focuses solely on political, social or ideological labels.

It’s time to get together on new ways to support investments that help grow the commonwealth.

It’s time to get behind pre-k, which speaks to Pennsylvanians and unite the many proud constituencies of our state who know our future is dependent on all kids entering school ready to learn.

The Pre-K for Pa Coalition is: Jodi Askins, Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children; Joan Benso, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children; Cara Ciminillo, Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children; Donna Cooper, Public Citizen’s for Children and Youth; Bruce Clash, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids; Steve Doster, Mission Readiness – Military Leaders for Kids; Kevin Dow, United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey; Blair Hyatt, Pennsylvania Head Start Association; Sharon Easterling, Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children, and Steve Wray, Economy League of Greater Philadelphia

See the Op-ed here.