Pre-K for PA presented a 2017 Pre-K Champion award to Rep. Pat Harkins today at the Unexpected Advocates breakfast, hosted by United Way of Erie County, for his strong commitment and ongoing support of expanded investments in early education across the commonwealth. Among the many legislators who support Pre-K for PA, the campaign is recognizing several Champions from across the state whose commitment earned them special recognition.
Ron DiNicola, co-chair of the Northwest PA Pre-K for PA campaign, present Rep. Harkins the award alongside Bill Jackson, President and CEO of the United Way of Erie County, Kristin Rotz, President of the United Way of Pennsylvania, Nick Scott Jr., PA Early Learning Investment Commission and Pre-K for PA NWPA Co-Chair, and fellow legislators Senator Dan Laughlin and State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro.
“The entire Erie delegation is viewed in Harrisburg as particularly supportive of Pre-K for PA and new investments in early learning,” said DiNicola. “Rep. Harkins, in particular, has long supported investing in pre-k—starting the Pre-K Caucus in the PA House of Representatives, which he recruited 193 Democrats and Republicans to in the first year. His hard work on behalf of children is part of his DNA – he gets the value and he keeps pre-k in the forefront of his work and that is what makes him a Pre-K Champion.”
"In previous generations, parents sent children to kindergarten to be ready to learn in first grade,” said Bill Jackson, President, United Way of Erie County. “Today, it is recognized that children need high-quality early education to be ready to learn in kindergarten."
Also, presented at the event was new data from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children documenting that 45 percent of eligible three- and four-year-olds in Senator Laughlin’s legislative district lack access to state funded high-quality pre-k programs. To satisfy this need, 90 additional classrooms would be needed to serve nearly 2,000 more kids every year. Currently throughout Pennsylvania, there are more than 112,900 eligible preschool children, or 64 percent statewide, who qualify for high-quality, publicly funded pre-k but remain unserved.
“There isn't a single PA State Senate District where 70 percent or more children who are eligible for publicly funded, high-quality pre-k get to attend,” said United Way of Pennsylvania Executive Director Kristen Rotz. “In every type of neighborhood, we need to invest. Thanks to the ongoing commitment of leaders in Harrisburg like Rep. Harkins, an expanded investment in early education across Pennsylvania remains at the forefront of legislative priorities. He is a Pre-K Champion and we salute his unwavering commitment to the children in Pennsylvania.”
“For me, high quality pre-k is about opportunity,” said Nick Scott Jr., Northwest PA Pre-K for PA Co-Chair and PA Early Learning Investment Commission. “Opportunity for our region’s children and opportunity for our region overall. When you look at the studies on the impact these types of programs can have on kids, it becomes obvious that pre-k is something that we should be investing in. It can reduce grade repetition, special education placements, dropout rates, and ultimately save our school districts, region and the entire state money.”
Governor Wolf’s budget proposal included $65 million in additional funding for the state’s Pre-K Counts program and an additional $10 million for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. This $75 million expansion would serve about 8,400 additional young children.
Participants thanked Rep. Harkins for his continued advocacy and help in keeping expanded investments in early education at the forefront of legislative priorities.