Many of us thought the day would never come. But if you’ve been following the news, you know that Northwestern Pennsylvania will no longer remain one of the most significant chunks of the Keystone State going unserved by a community college. But rather than bringing a traditional community college to the area, one local university has taken steps on its own to ensure that Erie-area residents have yet another opportunity to further their education.
This is still big news, and Rebecca Styn gives the details behind the motives for The Community’s College, now housed at the Porreco Center of Edinboro University, in this issue.
But there is yet another major educational hurdle remaining in our state and in our region.
Of the 296,957 children ages 3 and 4 in Pennsylvania, 208,991 don’t have access to high-quality pre-K learning opportunities. More shocking yet, 178,795 — or 60 percent — of those children live in families below 300 percent poverty, and currently there are only enough public funds to make pre-K available for less than 20 percent of 3 and 4-year old statewide. Furthermore, a new report by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) reveals that Pennsylvania ranks 30th out of 41 states that provide high-quality pre-k to 4-year-olds.
In Erie County alone, 6,864 children don’t have access to that high-quality pre-K education. And if current poverty trends have taught us anything, that number simply won’t reduce itself.
That’s why in a year in which we’ll either re-elect our current governor or decide someone else is a better fit for the job, as well as make critical decisions for who represents us in the state legislature, we want to turn our attention — and yours — to the PreK for PA initiative to help ensure this issue gets the attention it deserves from those making the funding decisions in Harrisburg.
Local leaders Ron DiNicola and Nick Scott, Jr. — under the guidance and direction of Kate Philips — are co-chairing the campaign here in Erie, and already, big plans are in the works — like a visit from former Pa. Governors Ed Rendell and Mark Schweiker Monday, June 9.
We encourage you to continue following our coverage of this issue for the coming months and to consider this an issue of the utmost importance, because regardless of whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, liberal or conservative, it’s no mystery as to whether investments in early-childhood education can work here.
Recent studies prove that every dollar spent on pre-K education can yield up to a $17 return on investment for the local economy. Pre-K also has the potential to save between $2 and $11 for every dollar spent from crime-related expenses the state would incur in later years.
That is, if we want to combat crime, poverty, and violence — three plagues jockeying for top-billing on the morning and evening news in Erie — we need to invest early and often in education, and that means that even with limited resources, supporting the NWPA PreK for PA is one of the smart investments we can stand to make.
For more information on PreK for PA, visit: www.prekforpa.org.