HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) — Tuesday at the PA state Capitol, a coalition of early education advocates held a press conference to highlight findings from a new poll that shows increased support for investments in early childhood education.
The Early Learning PA Coalition consists of several advocacy organizations with the goal of enhancing and investing in early child care and education. Advocates said today, a recent poll of 800 Pennsylvania voters, indicates an increase in bipartisan support for these investments.
For parents like TaTyana Abreu, childcare and early education are so important for young children, including her daughter.
“Their exposure to early childhood experiences has a lot to do with how they adapt and how they are prepared for future success,” said Abreu. “As a first-time mother back then, that was very reassuring to know that my child was taken care of in a safe environment setting with certified teachers and staff that knew exactly what they were doing,” she added.
Findings from a recent poll conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research shows 98-percent of Pennsylvania voters agree that early education is important.
“The poll shows strong support across the political spectrum,” said Kristen Rotz, President of the United Way PA.
However, child care and early education professionals face several barriers, like low wages. Rotz says increased wages promote more qualified professionals.
“Pennsylvania childcare businesses are experiencing historic shortages in staffing, so they are unable to maximize their potential for open classrooms and capacity to care for children,” said Rotz. “These poll results demonstrate that Pennsylvanians understand that low wages in childcare are threatening the ability of anyone responsible for raising children to engage productively in the workforce,” she added.
With budget season approaching, advocates and lawmakers are highlighting the need for more funding.
“I think it’s critical that we invest in Pre-K, Head Start, early intervention. When you see the work that these agencies and these groups and these people do across the state, it bears out the investment,” said Rep. Pat Harkins (D-Erie). “It’s something that we really, really need to address more funding towards. More than half of Pennsylvania residents live in child care deserts, and less than half of Pennsylvania’s child care is considered high quality,” Harkins added.
Harkins says more investments can help professionals address different learning barriers for children at a younger age.
“It’s better to catch it at an early age and deal with that rather than have the child thrown into an issue older, later in life, where it brings them down quicker or slows them up,” said Harkins.
Next month, Governor Josh Shapiro will deliver his first budget address. Advocates hope he, and members of the General Assembly, will respond to the level of support for investing in early education.