Report Shows Young Pennsylvanians Not Prepared to Serve in Military

Retired Generals Call for Better Access to High-Quality Pre-K 

Erie, PA (May 28, 2015)Major General (Ret.) Michael E. Dunlavey – a member of Mission: Readiness – Military Leaders for Kids, a national nonprofit organization of more than 500 retired generals and admirals touted the need to expand Pre-K as part of an effort to better prepare our workforce, particularly in the armed services.   The regional legislative breakfast featured State Legislators, local business and community leaders who are working together to advocate for expanded access to Pre-K for the thousands of un-served kids in Erie County.

Dunlavey released the new report calling for better access to high quality pre-kindergarten for the sake of future national security. The new report documented how high-quality pre-kindergarten can help children succeed in school, stay physically fit, and avoid criminal involvement, opening the doors to college, careers and the military for those who choose to serve.

Major General Dunlavey, a former Erie County Judge, cited new Pentagon data that 72 percent of young Pennsylvanians are unable to serve in the military for three primary reasons: they are too poorly educated, they are physically unfit, or they have a criminal record. He emphasized research included in the report that quality pre-kindergarten experiences enable children to build the pre-math, pre-literacy and social skills that are vital to academic success when they begin school, making it less likely they will fall behind or eventually drop out.

“This high level of ineligibility among our youth is unacceptable as our current military involves complex technology and systems unimagined in past generations,” said General Dunlavey. “We need young men and women who can think critically, work well in teams, and make decisions under pressure. Increasing access to high-quality pre-K programs will result in more kids being prepared for college, the workforce and the military down the road.”

According to data cited in the report, more than 200,000 three- and four-year-olds lack access to high-quality pre-kindergarten in Pennsylvania, and more than 4,200 three- and four-year-olds lack access in Erie County alone.

Local legislators State Senator Sean Wiley, State Representatives Flo Fabrizio and Curt Sonney came out to the legislative breakfast in support of Pre-K for PA.

“It is our duty to engage anyone who will listen on the value of early education as the future of this commonwealth,” said State Senator Wiley.

“The social ills of this country could be eradicate by good education,” said Flo Fabrizio. “We are all on the same team and we’re going to fund this, but we have to fund it adequately. You won’t find any legislator that disagrees with Pre-K. It’s imperative that we do all we can at a young age.”

State Representatives Pat Harkins and Ryan Bizarro were unable to attend, but have been strong supporters of the Pre-K for PA campaign.

“I know that quality Pre K is the bedrock of our going forward with any education initiatives,” said Representative Pat Harkins. “Everything we do as a society is dependent on how we educate our children and statistics show that investing in the first five years of a child’s life reap huge rewards in the long run.”

“If we want to make sure Pennsylvania succeeds, we’ll give our youngest learners the tools they need to grow into confident, intelligent adults,” said Representative Ryan Bizarro. “We know that about 90 percent of brain development occurs between the time a child is born and age 5, so it only makes sense to invest more in our young students. For every dollar we put into high-quality early learning programs, we save as much as $17.

“I applaud Governor Wolf for planning to spend $120 million more on preschool for our three- and four-year-olds, helping them to learn the skills they need to stay off government assistance and out of jail, and instead become upstanding contributors to our society.”

Governor Wolf has proposed increasing funding by $120 million in the coming fiscal year so about 14,000 more Pennsylvania 3- and 4-year-olds are served by high quality pre-k.

Other major findings from the Mission: Readiness report entitled, The Military Gets It: High-quality pre-kindergarten is crucial for youth readiness and a centerpiece of the military’s child development system, include:

  • One in five students nationwide and 16 percent in Pennsylvania do not graduate from high school on time.
  • Of those who do graduate and try to join the military, more than 1 in 5 nationwide and 22 percent in Pennsylvania cannot score highly enough on the military’s entrance exam to be able to serve.

The report highlights studies of high-quality early education programs that show impressive education and crime prevention outcomes:

  • Participants in New Jersey’s preschool program, which serves children across the state, were three-fourths of a year ahead in math and two-thirds of a year ahead in literacy when they reached the fourth and fifth grades. They were also 31 percent less likely to be in special education and 40 percent less likely to be held back in school.
  • Participants in the Chicago Child-Parent Centers preschool programs, which have served over 100,000 at-risk children, were 29 percent more likely to have graduated from high school, and those who were left out of the program were 70 percent more likely than participants to have been arrested for a violent crime by age 18.

Mission: Readiness is the nonpartisan national security organization of more than 500 retired generals and admirals calling for smart investments in America’s children.  It operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit Council for a Strong America. For more information

Pre-K for PA is an issue campaign supported by individuals and organizations across Pennsylvania who believe that investing in our children is the right choice and an urgent necessity. Our vision is that every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania will have access to high-quality pre-k For more information