As a father, grandfather, businessman and city of Pittsburgh resident, I am elated by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s announcement regarding the $250 million preschool development grants competition. Mr. Duncan’s visit hit home — literally, since he met with children attending my Hill District neighborhood’s Hug Me Tight Child Life Center (“City Gears Up to Seek Federal Aid to Boost Early Childhood Education,” Aug. 14).
The grants confirm this administration’s commitment to early childhood education and our country’s future. It also illustrates challenges many children face when entering kindergarten unprepared to do their best, because they did not attend preschool.
I have seen firsthand the benefits of a high-quality early childhood education. My wife worked in a preschool classroom years ago, and my 3-year-old grandson will start his early childhood education in the weeks to come.
Unfortunately, all kids in Allegheny County do not get the same strong start in life. Only one in six 3- and 4-year-olds have access to high-quality, publicly funded preschools. According to the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, when children participate in high-quality programs, they’re more likely to do better in school, enroll in college and earn higher salaries. Additionally, studies show high-quality preschool is key to closing the racial achievement gap — something desperately needed in my community. In 2013, 582 African-American males graduated from the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Only 139 were eligible to receive scholarships from The Pittsburgh Promise.
For all these reasons and more, I encourage Pennsylvania legislators to apply for the preschool development grants. I also urge you to help our children succeed in school by signing the Pre-K for PA petition at www.prekforpa.org.
The writer is CEO/president of J. Feltric Metals, board member of Allies for Children and board member of the Thelma Lovette YMCA.