STATE COLLEGE, PA (May 11, 2021) – Pre-K Counts provider The Learning Station welcomed PA State Representative Kerry Benninghoff and local leaders today for a virtual tour and conversation on the challenges of providing pre-k during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local leaders spoke to Rep. Benninghoff about the continued need to serve the more than 900 eligible children across Centre County who still lack access to this once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity.
“I’ve raised five children, and now have eight grandchildren, so I am obviously very interested in the investment we make it our children, and I continue to advocate for that in my time in Harrisburg,” Rep. Benninghoff said. “Even in some more economic bleak times, we’ve tried to continue to do that.”
Lynda Mussi, Executive Director of The Learning Station, offered a glimpse into life at an early learning center during COVID—describing both visually and verbally how providers have been supporting our children, families, and businesses during this unique year. Joining her in the discussion were Michael Danneker, Township Manager for Spring Township, Jenn DeBell, Executive Director for Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC), Bruce Clash, State Director of Fight Crime: Invest In Kids, and Tracy Weaver, Outreach Coordinator, PennAEYC.
“We still have many, many obstacles, but we believe heavily that early education is the most fundamental and the most important investment that we can provide for our children,” said Mussi.
Speakers made it clear that despite the challenges associated with COVID, pre-k is working and is supported by the Centre County community. Michael Danneker, who participated in the tour and discussion, offered his unique law enforcement perspective, and agreed that high quality pre-k promotes not just the hard skills like math, reading, writing and science—but the increasingly important soft skills—communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.
“Being in law enforcement for so long, I think that really there is no substitute for pre-k. I think it’s so important the way it lays out the foundation for kids and how they achieve in the future,” Danneker said. “I can’t say enough about how every little piece counts, and every dollar we spend is an investment—invest in our kids, so we have a positive future for them.”
A new study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill confirmed that the commonwealth’s investment in pre-k is paying dividends for the children fortunate enough to access pre-k through Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts program. In language and math skills, the study showed that these kids outperformed their kindergarten peers who did not enjoy access—an advantage that equated to four to five months of learning gains, which is a substantial difference in development at that age.
Governor Wolf’s proposed 2021-22 PA budget includes a $25 million increase for Pre-K Counts and $5 million increase for the Head Start State Supplemental Assistance Program, which continues the tradition of expanding access to high quality pre-k. This new funding will allow 3,271 additional children to enroll in these high-quality early learning programs.
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 www.prekforpa.org.
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