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Report: Investing in Pre-K Has Benefits for All

A new report says about 120,000 low-income children in Pennsylvania don't have access to pre-kindergarten programs. (Lochoaymca/Wikimedia Commons)
A new report says about 120,000 low-income children in Pennsylvania don't have access to pre-kindergarten programs. (Lochoaymca/Wikimedia Commons)
January 19, 2016

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 from the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, the report says there are more than 175,000 3 year olds and 4 year olds in low-income households in the state, but in 2014, 70 percent of them had no access to publicly funded pre-K.

Michael Race, vice president of communication with the organization, 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 report says investing $470 million in pre-K over the next three years would more than double the percentage of kids 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. But according to Race, in Pennsylvania it's only 26 percent.

"Other states have been making those increases and those investments more aggressively, so they're reaching more kids and they're reaping larger benefits because of it," says Race.

The "Pre-K for PA" campaign, a statewide coalition, had asked for an additional $120 million for early childhood education this year - but so far, the budget only adds an extra $30 million.

Philanthropic groups, such as United Way of Pennsylvania, also have been promoting pre-K in communities around the state but, 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.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA