Sunbury Daily Item: Culver honored for dedication to early childhood education
By: Justin Strawser March 29, 2017

SUNBURY — State Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver started reading to the children at the Sunbury Children Center on Tuesday morning, but it didn’t take long for the students to hop on her lap or help the state legislator of the 108th District with the words.

The same morning at the center, Pre-K for PA presented Culver with a 2017 Pre-K Champion award for her strong commitment and ongoing support of expanded investments in early childhood education across the Commonwealth. Bruce Clash, the state director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, representing the Pre-K for PA campaign, presented the award to Culver.

“Honestly, this is an honor,” said Culver, also a member of the United Way Early Learning Investment Committee (ELIC) member. “It’s such a good cause. It’s huge.”

Following the presentation, Culver read three books — “Daniel Finds a Poem,” “Chicken Little” and “Pete the Cat” — to at least a dozen children plus their teachers, parents and those who joined Culver in the presentation. The students eagerly listened, joined in on certain parts and asked the legislator questions that she happily answered.

“I like the fact that I’m learning from the children hopefully just as much as they’re learning from me reading these book to them,” Culver said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Clash was joined in presenting the award by Joanne Troutman, president and CEO of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way; United Way ELIC members Norman Rich and Art Thomas; and Patty Edwards, program manager of Northumberland County Head Start.

Pre-K For PA estimates that 84 percent of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds in the 108th district lack access to state-funded, high quality pre-k programs. To satisfy the need, 54 additional classrooms would be needed to serve more than 1,000 more kids every year. Currently throughout Pennsylvania, nearly 113,000 eligible pre-school children — or 64 percent statewide — remain unserved.

“Research is clear that pre-k can make a difference,” said Troutman. “It can reduce grade repetition, special education placements, drop out rates, and ultimately help our school districts, region and the entire state save money. That’s precisely why the United Way has been such a strong supporter of more kids having access to high quality pre-k.”

 Gov. Wolf’s budget proposal for the upcoming 2017-18 fiscal year includes $65 million in additional funding for the state’s Pre-K Counts program and an additional $10 million for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. This $75 million expansion would serve approximately 8,400 additional children, according to Clash.

“These are the most at-risk kids in the community,” Edwards said. “They deserve to be on a level playing field.”

Thomas said the fight to bring early education to communities is real.

“Until early learning becomes part of the public school system, we will have an uphill battle,” Thomas said.

Read the article here.