Pocono Record: Letter to the Editor: PA’s Children Need Quality Pre-k Care

As state budget talks continue, it is important for Pennsylvania parents and taxpayers to understand what is at stake regarding early learning investments.

Right now, only about I in 6 of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-old children has access to high quality Pre-K, despite its proven benefits in preparing children for success in Kindergarten. That means more than 200,000 of Pennsylvania’s 3 and 4-year-old children are not benefitting from high quality Pre-K. In Monroe county, there are 3,645 children, ages 3 and 4. Of those, 2,757 of them, 76%, do not have access to high quality Pre-K. State leaders can reduce this number by boosting Pennsylvania’s Pre-K investments in this year’s budget.

The budget talks also could impact access to high quality child care. Child care has become the norm for young children and it can be expensive. Many low-income families need assistance to pay for child care so parents can go to work and know their child is in a safe, nurturing environment that provides appropriate learning experiences for young children. High quality child care makes employees more reliable and productive, decreases employee turnover and absenteeism and increase employee retention and productivity. High quality child care benefits children, parents, employers and society as a whole — both now and in the future. In 2014, accredited high quality child care was available to just 11.9% of Monroe county children ages infant to four.

Together, high quality child care and Pre-K have been proven to help prepare young learners for school by building their academic and social skills. It is an investment that pays off, but we need to invest more to get a fuller return on investment.

As Governor Wolf and lawmakers negotiate a state spending plan, they need to make sure these early learning investments are well represented in Pennsylvania’s budget priorities.

Judith Locker Fanelli
President Northeastern Child Care Services
Treasure House Child Development Centers