A Column by State Senator Pat Browne
16th Senatorial District
The financial struggles and challenges facing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the upcoming budget process are well known. Governor Tom Corbett made it abundantly clear in his first budget address that he will not support a budget that increases taxes. He also was clear that each department and agency will have to make do with less as the state works to erase a $4 billion deficit.
This will require examining every area of state funding to determine where cuts are necessary and which programs merit continued funding.
One area that deserves continued funding and is critical to the future growth and prosperity of the Commonwealth is early childhood education. This funding is vital in giving at-risk young people the opportunity to succeed in school and later in life.
As co-chair of the Early Childhood Education Caucus, I applaud Governor Corbett for protecting and preserving state support for these programs in his 2010-2011 budget proposal. He understands that these initiatives are not only essential to the education of these children, but also to our communities and the future fiscal success of our great commonwealth.
There is no denying that investing in early childhood education comes with an initial cost. However, in the long-run, these programs improve the lives of those who need help the most. They also provide long-term value to taxpayers in the form of more productivity and less dependence on government assistance.
Case studies have shown that children who participate in early education programs were more likely to graduate from high school, lead more productive lives afterward and were less likely to be arrested or reliant on social services. Additionally, at-risk children who participate in the early childhood education programs are significantly less likely to repeat a grade in school, and that alone results in thousands of tax dollars saved each year.
A few weeks ago, America’s Edge – a group dedicated to strengthening businesses, the economy and communities through proven investments in children – disclosed the results of a new study and report that detailed the clear and deep economic connections between early childhood education and business growth and development in Pennsylvania. The report showed that investment in quality early care and education will actually generate $1.06 in sales of local goods and services from Pennsylvania businesses for every $1 invested.
As the state looks to find resources and ways to promote job growth, reduce unemployment rates and remove individuals’ reliance on government, starting kids out on the right foot early in life by providing them with the proper educational tools will go a long way to doing just that.
The state, however, cannot do this alone. It is imperative that families, educators, business leaders, legislators and, of course, the students themselves take an active role in the education process.
Without question, this will be the toughest budget process that the state has faced in a long time. I hope and look for the Governor and my fellow legislators to join me to continue Pennsylvania’s involvement in early childhood education. It is a must for the future of our children, our state and our country.