Erie County Council Pushes Harrisburg for More Pre-K Funding - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather and Events

Erie County Council Pushes Harrisburg for More Pre-K Funding

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Erie County Council unanimously showed its support for a resolution that will ask the PA legislature to increase funding for pre-k programs at their meeting on Tuesday night in Union City. It's the latest push for the "Pre-K for PA" campaign, which seeks to bring preschool education to every three and four-year-old in the state by 2018.

The effort enjoys bi-partisan support, but needs more funding.

"This is a moral, economic, and good decision to be made with Pre-K for PA. We're hoping that Harrisburg gets our message tonight from county council," said Phil Fatica, Erie County councilman and co-sponsor of the resolution with councilman Andre Horton.

Economic studies show that children in poverty often fail to overcome their disadvantages and remain in poverty as adults.

However, pre-school can help close the income inequality gap by leading to stronger academic performance, a smaller likelihood of a learning disability diagnosis, and college graduation rates at four times the rate of their non pre-k peers.

Fatica says now, early childhood education is more important than ever before.

"Kindergarten is really the new first grade. Kids come into  kindergarten and they're expected to know how to read, write, numbers, the alphabet. And if they don't have it, then they're already behind, by the time they hit kindergarten," he said.

Studies also find that investment in pre-k education for disadvantaged kids eventually pays for itself, because those kids grow up to become adults who show lower rates of violence and incarceration.

"Early childhood education is the surest way for families to get out of poverty," said Dave Robinson, executive director of Family Support Center in Union City. The center provides certain early childhood opportunities for low-income families.

"For every dollar invested early childhood education, it's $11 reaped through savings in special education, juvenile justice," Robinson said.

The council's vote to pressure Harrisburg to further fund pre-k is the second show of support on Tuesday for early childhood education. On Tuesday morning, General Electric's union, UE-506 Local presented presented a $30,000 donation towards "Pre-K for PA."

"I'm honored to be able to support this adventure and I'm hoping that everyone will jump on board as well," said UE-506 president Scott Duke.

"The message of early childhood education is already starting to resonate," Horton said.

About 4,000 three and four-year-olds in Erie County are not enrolled in a pre-school program.

One possible source of revenue that could be used for universal pre-k in Pennsylvania is a severance tax on Marcellus shale. The tax is being discussed in Harrisburg.


 
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