Tens of thousands of Pennsylvania children do not have access to high-quality and effective pre-kindergarten, Head Start, or child care services. Even after increased investments in the current year’s state budget, only 18% of Pennsylvania 3- and 4-year-olds have access to publicly funded pre-k programs like Head Start and Pre-K Counts, and fewer than 1 in 20 children through age four benefit from high-quality child care.
In addition, despite increased Early Intervention funding for children with developmental delays or disabilities, the system struggles to keep up with demand for services. Demand is also heavy for evidence-based home visiting programs. Despite significant federal expansion for home visiting programs through the Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV), state-funded home visitation programs have not increased even though costs and demand are increasing.
Pennsylvania needs to make stronger investments in high-quality early learning programs if it wants to reap the full social and economic benefits of these proven programs. Early learning programs:
- Help children grow and learn, improving future school performance;
- Save us money in the future by reducing costs for special education, public assistance, and corrections, generating a return on investment of as much as $17 for every $1 spent; and
- Stimulate economic activity today since every dollar invested in high quality early childhood generates at least $2.10 to circulate through the local economy.
Educators know the value of high-quality early learning because it helps children start school ready to learn. Employers know it promotes worker stability and productivity because it gives peace of mind to parents, while setting the foundation for a strong future workforce. Law enforcement officials have embraced it because it improves school performance and reduces crime. Our nation’s military leaders recognize that by putting young children on a path toward learning and health that it can help solve the education, crime and obesity-related problems that put military service out of reach for many young adults.