Longietti joins Franco Harris, Bruce Baumgartner in call for quality Pre-K

HARRISBURG, Jan. 25 – Flanked by Pittsburgh Steelers legend Franco Harris and four-time Olympic medal-winning wrestler Bruce Baumgartner, state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, joined the call for quality Pre-K programs at a Capitol news conference today.

Longietti, who serves as co-chairman of the joint House/Senate Early Childhood Education Caucus, said high-quality Pre-K programs have a demonstrated, positive impact on student achievement.

“In Pennsylvania, when we have invested in our children early, we have realized results, such as an 80-percent reduction in at-risk behaviors among 3-year-olds participating in PA Pre-K Counts,” Longietti said. “In Mercer County, the United Way’s ‘Success by Six’ Pre-K summer program has demonstrated consistent achievement results, according to a longitudinal study following participants over time.”

Longietti said it is particularly important to reach at-risk and disadvantaged children, because studies have shown that 60 to 70 percent of the achievement gap between low- and high-income children in high school was already present by the time they were in kindergarten.

Longietti drew a parallel to sports in his district, noting that the Reynolds High School wrestling program, which has won several state championships, is fed by a junior wrestling program that starts teaching athletes at a very young age. He said the same concept applies to the Hickory High School football program, which won its sixth consecutive District 10 championship and places great emphasis on junior varsity team development.

“If we recognize the importance of starting early in sports, we should also recognize the importance of giving our young students a good early start,” Longietti remarked. 

The nonprofit Champions for America’s Future hosted today’s news conference, titled, “High-Quality Early Education Can Help Kids Win the Academic ‘Medal Race.’”

Harris, a professional football Hall of Famer, and Baumgartner, the longtime Edinboro University athletic director, called on lawmakers to level the playing field and scale up access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs that prepare kids for academic and lifetime success.