HARRISBURG (March 3, 2015)– The Pre-K for PA campaign, along with the Early Learning PA coalition, today applauded Gov. Tom Wolf's proposal for substantial increases to state investments in high-quality pre-kindergarten and child care – investments that will help Pennsylvania make up lost ground and increase access to high-quality early learning programs for more children.
Gov. Wolf's proposed budget for fiscal 2015-16 calls for:
Increasing funding for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts by $100 million, which will nearly double the commonwealth's current annual investment of $97.3 million.
A $20 million increase in state funding for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, which would bring total funding to $59 million.
Investing nearly $36 million in available federal funds to increase the availability of high-quality child care programs.
Despite the proven benefits of high-quality early learning, too few Pennsylvania children have access to these programs.
Only about 1 in 6 of Pennsylvania's 3- and 4-year-olds is enrolled in publicly funded, high-quality pre-k, a statistic that has remain unchanged in recent years due to sluggish state investments. If the governor's proposal is enacted, access would increase to about 1 in 4 of the commonwealth's 3- and 4-year-olds.
While this is a laudable first step, it still leaves a majority of young learners missing out on the once-in-a-lifetime benefits high-quality pre-k provides. Pennsylvania will need multiple years of similarly substantial investments to reach Gov. Wolf's stated goal of making high-quality pre-k universally accessible.
Among children age 0-4 in need of child care, only about 1 in 13 benefit from high-quality care. The governor's proposal means child care access will be improved, but the commonwealth needs more aggressive investments in the years ahead to increase child care access.
The principal partners of the Pre-K for PA campaign (listed below) issued the following statement in response the Gov. Wolf's spending plan:
"Today is a good day for pre-k! Governor Wolf's proposed $120 million investment in early learning programs is a solid first step toward increasing access to high-quality pre-k, and on behalf of the more than 11,000 supporters of the Pre-K for PA campaign, we thank the governor for his vision.
"Early learning investments pay off for the entire commonwealth. Based on economic models created by Ready Nation, the governor's proposed $120 million increase in pre-k funding would have a short-term economic impact for the commonwealth of nearly $215 million and long-term economic benefits of about $840 million. Nearly 3,400 new jobs would be created as a result of this increased pre-k investment. Similarly, every dollar invested in high-quality child care generates up to $1.79 in short-term economic benefits and up to $7 in long-term benefits.
"As the budget process unfolds, legislative leaders who support pre-k can work with Gov. Wolf to ensure these proposed new investments happen in fiscal year 2015-16 and continue to grow in the years ahead."