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Pre-K for PA Campaign’s State Comparison Report Hits Harrisburg

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May 11, 2017
by Barbara Saverino

Business and civic leaders often ask: Why invest in pre-k?

A recent report, "Prioritizing Pre-K in Pennsylvania: A State Comparison", released by the Pre-K for PA Campaign, answers that question and more. United Way joined fellow Pre-K for PA Campaign members such as Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) President and CEO Joan L. Benso, Governor Tom Wolf and York County business leader Michael Smeltzer in Harrisburg to share these findings, including the fact that among 27 other states and the District of Columbia having made the wise choice to invest in high-quality pre-k, Pennsylvania only ranks 20th among the cohort in per capita investments.

"Sixty-four percent - two-thirds, basically - of Pennsylvania 3-and 4-year-olds who are eligible for high-quality pre-k still don't get the opportunity to attend," said Ms. Benso. "Why? Because we don't invest enough state money."

And because ensuring brighter futures for our children benefits society as a whole, pre-k isn't strictly a red or blue issue. Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed explained that when it comes to pre-k and preparing youth today to grow into engaged, law-abiding citizens of tomorrow, Republicans and Democrats are on the same side.

"If we keep people out of the [criminal justice] system, we will save all sorts of money," said Freed. "It's hard to look ahead. It's hard make an argument that we need to do things that will help us down the road. But the studies show…that these [pre-k] programs work."

With half of Pennsylvania's prison population holding less than a 12th-grade education and more than 47,000 adult inmates in the state's prisons, investing in pre-k now can help grow our society and leave the $2.3 billion a year it takes to keep adults incarcerated in taxpayers' pockets.

It's one of several reasons why the Pre-K for PA campaign is calling on lawmakers to support Governor Tom Wolf's proposed $75 million increase for Pre-K Counts and Head Start. That investment would open up 8,400 more slots for children to access high-quality preschool programs.

Want to help expand high-quality, public pre-k in our region? Take action today and contact your legislative leaders to let them know your community wants pre-k!