Corbett seeks 'investment' in early education

Asks for additional $25.5M in funding in proposed budget



"That's you!" an excited preschooler said to Gov. Tom Corbett, looking at the governor and then at his photo in the classroom, placed between photos of President Barack Obama and Mayor Bill Peduto.

The classroom at the Small World Early Learning and Development Centers 2, Downtown, included mostly students in a state-funded program called PreK Counts, which serves children ages 4 and 5.

Mr. Corbett was in town to make a pitch for more state money for early childhood education. His proposed budget calls for an additional $25.5 million for early education.

Gov. Corbett tours early childhood center

Gov. Tom Corbett was in Pittsburgh today to tour the Small World Early Childhood Center II and call attention to the importance of early learning programs. (Video by Nate Guidry; 5/8/2014)

That includes $10 million for PreK Counts, which would make it possible for 1,670 more children to attend quality preschool programs statewide, including about 160 in Allegheny County.

Mr. Corbett said this is a tight budget year, and he was noncommittal as to whether he thinks legislators will agree with the increase, saying, "If I had that crystal ball, I'd be betting on that lotto."

But he said he considers the money for early childhood "the best investment going."

He said each dollar invested in early childhood saves $17 in later costs, including incarceration. He said it also improves lives.

Before making his pitch, Mr. Corbett read "Stop Snoring, Bernard!" to the class. He said the book was a favorite of his young grandson.

Pittsburgh acting police Chief Regina McDonald held up another copy of the book so the kids could see the pictures.

She was on hand to speak on behalf of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, an organization of law enforcement officials who believe early childhood education can prevent crime later.

Chief McDonald said children with a preschool education are more likely to finish high school. High school dropouts are more likely to be arrested and most inmates in state prisons do not have a high school diploma, she said, noting it costs more than $38,000 a year for each state inmate.

Also speaking at the news conference was retired Rear Adm. Thomas Wilson on behalf of Mission: Readiness, an organization of retired admirals and generals which believes early childhood education is important to future national security.

He said 75 percent of people ages 17 to 24 do not meet the basic requirements for the military.

Small World Early Learning and Development Centers operates two child care facilities on Penn Avenue, Downtown, each with about 60 children from birth through age 5, including a PreK Counts classroom at each.


Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955. First Published May 8, 2014 4:55 PM

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