Reading Eagle: Editorial: Pre-K programs vital for development of youngsters

February 2, 2016

A recent report by a children’s advocacy organization in Harrisburg shined a bright light on the alarming condition of childhood education in Pennsylvania.

An article about the report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette appeared in the Reading Eagle under the headline “Report: Pa. lags in pre-K education.” A second headline read, “Lack of opportunities puts roughly 120,000 at risk of school failure, it says.”

Failing in school is just one of the many risks older children and adults face when they lack a quality early childhood education.

Pennsylvania trails most neighboring states in access to publicly funded, high-quality, pre-K education, with only one in six children in the state enrolled in such a program, according to the report by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

The report, “The Case for Pre-K in PA,” noted that over five years, Pennsylvania dropped from 11th to 15th in the nation in pre-K access for 3-year-olds and from 24th to 30th for 4-year-olds, according to research from the National Institute for Early Education Research.

In Pennsylvania, such programs are available to 26 percent of 4-year-olds. In West Virginia, New York and Maryland, the figures are 94 percent, 54 percent and 42 percent, respectively. Only New Jersey comes close to Pennsylvania in failing to recognize the importance of early childhood education, with 35 percent.

The Republican-crafted budget that Gov. Tom Wolf partially signed in December included $25 million for pre-K education and $5 million for Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program over the previous year’s levels. That’s not enough.

The HighScope Perry Preschool Study has shown that without early childhood education, at-risk children are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 60 percent more likely to not attend college and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime, according to an article on the Rasmussen College website.

“The study found that adults at age 40 who had the preschool program had higher earnings, were more likely to hold a job, had committed fewer crimes, and were more likely to have graduated from high school than adults who did not have preschool,” the article said.

A local early learning center hit hard by the budget fiasco is Live N Learn Station on South Fifth Street in Reading. It was shut for several months, we reported on Jan. 7. That means the 56 children at the center stopped learning until Wolf signed off on a portion of a Republican-crafted budget, sending needed funds to centers like it across the state.

Read the full editorial here.