New Report Advocates More Pre-K In PA
By Andrea Sears of the Keystone State News Connection
for The Pottstown Post
HARRISBURG PA – Pennsylvania needs to increase its commitment to making high-quality pre-kindergarten available to at-risk children, according to a new report.
Called “The Case for Pre-K in PA,” issued by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, the report says the state is home to more than 175,000 3- and 4-year-olds in low-income households, but during 2014 about 70 percent of them lacked access to publicly funded pre-K.
Michael Race, the group’s vice president of communication, says offering high-quality pre-K has long-lasting effects. “It increases graduation rates, reduces dropouts, increases the likelihood of going on to college, and basically helps create a better workforce that benefits communities and the Commonwealth as a whole.”
The Pottstown School District been recognized by several organizations as being among Pennsylvania’s leaders in providing the kind of pre-K classes advocated in the report. The document claims that investing $470 million in pre-K over the next three years would more than double the percentage of children who have access to early-learning programs.
In Maryland, 42 percent of 4-year-olds have access to pre-K, 54 percent in New York and 94 percent in West Virginia. In Pennsylvania it’s only 26 percent, according to Race. The “Pre-K for PA” campaign, a statewide coalition, had asked for an additional $120 million for early childhood education this year. The state budget, if approved, adds an extra $30 million.
Philanthropic groups, such as United Way of Pennsylvania, also have promoted pre-K around the state. As Race points out, they can’t do it alone. “There’s only so much we can do in the private sector to make it available,” he says. “The state is the one that really has the resources to grow pre-K considerably, and that’s what we’re asking them to do.”
The report estimates that targeted investments could give more than 125,000 Pennsylvania children access to publicly-funded pre-K by 2019.
Photo from the Keystone State News Connection