Report: PA Pre-K programs need more money

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A new report says Pennsylvania is not making the grade when it comes to funding Pre-K programs.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children says its study found the commonwealth ranks in the bottom half, 18 out of 30 states, that make public investments in Pre-K programs.

The report found that only 36-percent of eligible children in Pennsylvania benefit from high-quality, publicly funded Pre-K programs.

Researchers found that per-student spending is drastically lower than neighboring states like New Jersey, New York, Maryland and West Virginia.

At the United Neighborhood Centers in West Scranton, Eyewitness News found four and five year olds enjoying dance lessons Thursday. They were learning to socialize and follow directions while also having fun.

What the kids don’t know now is the skills they’re learning today will most likely help them succeed in school growing up and later in life.

“Some of these kids, they come to us and their speech is delayed. By the time they leave us, they’re on par with other children,” Tammy Marcinkevich with United Neighborhood Centers said.

On Thursday morning, business and education leaders joined together to urge state lawmakers from the governor down to state representatives to provide more money for Pre-K programs.

A new report found that 64-percent of at-risk, eligible kids in Pennsylvania, roughly 113,000 in total, aren’t able to attend a program.

“Ninety percent of a child’s brain is formed by the age of five. Think about that! Ninety percent! If you can fill up that kid with all the right ideas and all the right habits!” Peter Danchak, PNC Bank Regional President said.

The people in this room know most politicians “say” they support Pre-K programs but now they need to back up those words with dollars.

“We’re not only challenging them during the state budget season we’re challenging them during the election season and urging voters to ask candidates ‘where do you stand on pre-k?'” Joan Benso, president of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children said.

Back at the United Neighborhood Centers, experts say for every one dollar spent on Pre-K programs, a state will see four dollars in savings and benefits.

As for five-year-old Amelia, her favorite part of the day is playing in the gym.

“It’s fun to run around and play tag!” Amelia said.

This year, advocates are asking Governor Tom Wolf to invest an additional $85 million in his state budget for Pre-K programs.

He will outline his budget priorities early next month.

Last year, the governor proposed an additional $75 million but at the end of the budget process the total amount funded was less than half of that.

If you’d like more information or to read the “Pre-K Works, So Why Not PA?” report, visit 

www.papartnerships.org/prekinpa

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