By Joan Benso, president and CEO, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children

Not long after the statewide “Pre-K for PA” campaign launched in January, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) released a report showing only about 18 percent of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds – or 1 in 6 children – are able to access high-quality, publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs.

That means nearly a quarter of a million Pennsylvania children are missing out on the once-in-a-lifetime benefits high-quality pre-k provides. This lack of access not only means lost learning opportunities, it also results in additional long-term costs for Pennsylvania’s taxpayers. These issues can be addressed through stronger public investments in high-quality pre-k.

PPC’s report, A Smart Choice for a Solid Start: The Case for Pre-k in PA, details the proven benefits of high-quality pre-k for 3- and 4-year-olds, including stronger academic and social skills in kindergarten and later grades, reduced costs for special education services, and an increased likelihood of high school graduation and better employment opportunities. The report also includes local data showing how many young learners lack access to high-quality pre-k in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

Pre-k has earned growing support among elected leaders from both major parties, business leaders, and military and law enforcement officials in Pennsylvania and across the country. And most Pennsylvania voters support increased funding for pre-k, even if it means increased taxes.

Yet despite this strong support, Pennsylvania’s investments in high-quality pre-k have not significantly increased in recent years, even as several other states are making or moving toward stronger investments. Most of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states – including Maryland, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia – have higher rates of pre-k participation among 4-year-olds, underscoring the need for Pennsylvania to do more.