Today’s children are tomorrow’s workers, doctors, teachers, scientists

I welcome the opportunity to work with my friends on both sides of the aisle to improve the lives of the people of Pennsylvania. One of the areas in which I am most passionate is education. After serving in the House of Representatives for two terms, I know that no investment is more important than early childhood education. This is a moral obligation, opens opportunities for good jobs and represents a commitment to our future well-being. 

 

As a member of the House Education Committee, I think a good beginning would be to give all children – regardless of their ZIP code -- the same access to early learning opportunities, whether that be through pre-kindergarten or Head Start programs. That’s why I joined my House Democratic colleagues recently in asking Gov. Tom Wolf to make additional funding for these programs a priority in his 2017-18 budget proposal, which is set to be unveiled Feb. 7.

 

Since 2015, Gov. Wolf and legislators have added funding to the state budget to allow 6,000 additional Pennsylvania children to gain access to high-quality pre-K classrooms. Unfortunately, nearly 113,000 children in Pennsylvania who qualify for help paying for pre-K can't get in classrooms. That is unacceptable; we must do more.

 

Good jobs come from well-educated citizens and reduces other costs. Children served by quality pre-K are more likely to graduate, more likely to get a higher education and more likely to find jobs that offer stable careers and higher earnings. Moreover, research shows that every dollar invested in high-quality pre-K returns up to $17 in long-term savings and benefits. Making high-quality pre-K available to more children and families reduces criminal justice and other social costs for communities.

 

An added reason to invest in early childhood education opportunities is that today’s 5-year-old will be a doctor in 25 years. Today’s 3-year-old will be someone's teacher in my lifetime. The second-grader learning simple math will one day be tasked with making medical or scientific breakthroughs which save lives in our community and across the world. Today’s children will one day be called on to take care of us. Selfishly, I want the doctor screening my family for cancer, the teacher preparing my grandchildren and the scientist being asked to save the world to be given every tool and opportunity to succeed. 

 

The world has seen significant change since the turn of the millennium. The Internet has rendered geographical distance and cultural barriers more and more meaningless. We must equip students to enter into this ready to learn and equipped to earn. They will need the advantages of a world-class education to find their footing. The only way to provide this essential foundation for our children’s future is to invest in the quality education they deserve.