Currently, 12 percent of 4-year-olds in Pennsylvania are enrolled in state-funded pre-K programs. Meanwhile, the state provides pre-K to 5 percent of 3-year-olds, and 7,138 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start programs. Despite budget cuts to statewide early childhood programs in 2012-2013, state leaders and community advocates continue to rally for expanding access to early childhood opportunities. Additionally, the average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $10,319. Advocates in Pennsylvania recently started a campaign to get greater access to high-quality pre-K programs for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the state. Meanwhile, early childhood education is emerging as a top issue in this year’s gubernatorial race with members of the “Pre-K for PA” coalition, which includes military, business and law enforcement leaders “urging all the candidates for [Pennsylvania] governor to learn more about the social and economic benefits of investing in early childhood education.”
- What the governor is saying: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget address included $10 million in additional early learning funding, which the Philadelphia Daily News called “welcome news to parents around the state.” Gov. Corbett also promoted a new proposal to spend an additional $25.5 million on early childhood programs, calling money for early childhood “the best investment going.” During his 2014 State of the State address, Gov. Corbett said, “At every level, from early childhood to high school and beyond, every dollar we spend is an investment in the future of our commonwealth.”
- What state leaders are saying: Former Pennsylvania Govs. Ed Rendell and Mark Schweiker, a Democrat and Republican respectively, wrote in an op-ed that investments in early childhood education would “guarantee a kid a sound future” and “ultimately help to build a more successful Pennsylvania.” The governors encouraged candidates running for governor and the state Legislature to support the Pre-K for PA campaign, which looks to give every 3- and 4-year-old access to high-quality pre-K by 2018. Local leaders are also embracing early learning. For example, a Pittsburgh city councilwoman believes that investing in high-quality pre-K “is much more cost-effective than spending tax dollars to address problems later in [people’s] lives.”
- What’s happening in the legislature: In the state Senate, Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Rep. Phyllis Mundy (D-Luzerne) are leading the charge to ensure the $10 million for preschool programs targeted to low-income children and families remain part of the state’s final approved budget.
- Funding increases and additional support: In addition to Gov. Corbett’s proposed $10 million investment in early childhood education, the governor is also promoting a new proposal to spend an additional $25.5 million on early childhood programs next year.