The Intelligencer: DA joins call for more pre-K in Bucks County
January 10, 2019 by Christian Menno

Bucks County needs 174 more pre-kindergarten classrooms to meet demand, according to an educational group.

When Bucks County’s top law enforcement officer speaks in front of a crowd, it’s usually a throng of media members or a packed courtroom.

But on Thursday District Attorney Matt Weintraub had a captive audience of a different kind when he visited with youngsters at Radcliffe Learning Center in Bristol Borough.

He urged students to keep each other safe and treat each other with respect.

But his message to residents and lawmakers in Harrisburg was to continue to push for funding of quality pre-kindergarten programs, to which 74 percent of eligible children in Bucks County do not have access, according to studies.

“Pre-k is critical,” Weintraub said after interacting with the kids. “It’s been proven … time and time again that the more education that we can give to the children and the younger that we can start the less problems that they face as they grow up, less crime that we have to attend to, the more intact that their families will become and it’s just a positive cycle that continues to grow.”

The number of students without access to high-quality providers statewide is less than in Bucks and sits at 61 percent, says data compiled by KIDS COUNT: Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

Thursday’s event, which also included Bristol Borough police Sgt. Pete Faight, was organized by Public Citizens for Children and Youth as part of the Pre-K for PA initiative.

PCCY’s Education Coordinator Bill Shoffler said the county needs 174 additional pre-k classrooms to meet the demand.

The benefits if that number is reach, he said, would be “immeasurable.”

“What studies have found is that kids who attend a quality pre-k do better in school, have higher graduation rates and as adults they’re actually healthier,” Shoffler said. “They rely less on social support and one of the reasons our district attorney is so supportive of pre-k is that they have less interaction with the criminal justice system.”

He called the $25 million in pre-kindergarten funding included in the final 2018-19 state budget a good start, but stressed that more efforts are needed.

One of the ways an institution in Pennsylvania is viewed as “high quality” is through participating in certification programs.

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