PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 4, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Tom Wolf today joined Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera to announce the proposed early education funding levels for the 2016-17 budget. Pennsylvania stands at a crossroads, and Governor Wolf is proposing a clear path for a promising future in the commonwealth. The governor's proposal includes a $60 million increase in high-quality early childhood education. This funding increase builds upon a $60 million investment in 2015-16 to enroll about 14,000 additional children in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program.
"We have a choice in Pennsylvania. We must choose a path that funds our schools, eliminates our deficit, and puts Pennsylvania back on track," said Governor Wolf. "I believe that Pennsylvania should be among the many states that provide universal pre-kindergarten for children and I will work to make this a reality."
Governor Wolf has made clear his strong commitment to education in Pennsylvania by fighting to restore critical education funding cuts, provide unprecedented support to high-quality pre-k programs, and ensure students are college and career ready. The governor continues to advocate for increased funding for Pennsylvania schools to deliver high-quality education to every student across the state, regardless of zip code.
In 2003, Pennsylvania joined the ranks of states that offer full-day pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds. Currently, only 30 percent of Pennsylvania children in families earning up to three times the federal poverty level are enrolled in high-quality pre-k programs. Studies show that children who participate in high-quality pre-kindergarten perform better in school, graduate at higher rates, and earn more throughout their working lives compared to peers that do not have access to early learning programs. Additionally, children who were previously enrolled in Pre-K Counts outperform their economically disadvantaged peers in third-grade math and reading.
"Access to high-quality early childhood education is critical to students and families, but also to the future of Pennsylvania," Secretary Rivera said. "Governor Wolf's leadership in expanding access to these proven programs will have sustained, positive impacts on the commonwealth's families, schools, workforce, and economy."
"I thank Governor Wolf for his leadership on this important issue," said Mayor Kenney. "Pre-K is the single most important and cost-effective investment we can make in our city and our state's future, impacting our schools, our public safety and our economic development. In conjunction with our local efforts on pre-k, this investment from the state would break the cycle of poverty for thousands of families."
This 2016-17 investment is contingent upon lawmakers passing the bipartisan budget compromise bill that proved elusive last December. The upcoming budget provides a spending plan for 2016-17 that builds upon that agreement. Failing to enact this compromise will put Pennsylvania on yet another path that abandons all bipartisanship, causing our schools to lose an additional $1 billion that would double the amount cut from education under the previous administration.
"It is time for us to finish the job and restore Pennsylvania's shaken faith in their government," said Governor Wolf. "It is time to fund our schools. It is time to face financial reality. It is time to give Pennsylvania the bright future it deserves."
Governor Wolf will deliver his 2016-17 budget address on February 9 at 11:30 a.m. A livestream of the budget address will be available here: https://www.governor.pa.gov/live/
MEDIA CONTACT: Jeff Sheridan, 717.783.1116
SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor