This Fight is Our Fight

If you’re itching to get to Harrisburg and tell our legislators to reverse these devastating cuts to education, here’s a great opportunity: next Tuesday, May 1st, the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC) will be taking busloads of people for a day of advocacy. PAEYC (pronounced “pay-cee”) is a terrific organization and all of us concerned with K-12 public education need to be paying attention to early childhood education (known as ECE).

In fact, these are rather arbitrary distinctions between ECE and K-12, based on historical issues of funding, institutions, and traditional gender roles within the family. (There is much more to be said on this topic and it is a particular interest of mine, but I will not digress.) It makes more sense to think of learning as a continuum and good research now supports the idea of moving to a pre-K-12 model. [See, for instance, the Pew Charitable Trusts’ September 2011 report.] In any case, there is much common ground with our friends in early childhood education, especially around the $100 MILLION Accountability Block Grant that Gov. Corbett is proposing to cut.

As you may recall, most school districts use that block grant to fund Kindergarten programs (Pittsburgh Public actually uses it to support ECE programs). Last year, the governor proposed cutting this same block grant, but it was one of the few things restored in the budget negotiation process. This is a real opportunity to band together to put pressure on a key piece of the budget during this negotiation process.

Supporting quality early childhood education is a no-brainer. Good ECE programs prepare children academically for school, help to close the achievement gap, and provide long-term benefits to taxpayers and society. Research shows that every $1 spent on early education yields between $7 and $13 in savings due to reduced crime, decreased drug use and a drop in teen parenting. [For example, see a Pennsylvania study from the Urban Studies Center, 2006.]

The proposed budget will gut ECE efforts around the state, meaning that fewer children will arrive at schools ready to learn. That will inevitably lead to increased costs for educational interventions and remediation. And as programs have to cut training programs for ECE teachers, fewer children will benefit from quality programs – the kinds that really make a difference. With cuts to childcare subsidies, working families will have few affordable alternatives.

Consider joining PAEYC on May 1st. There are buses leaving from Homestead and Homewood that day. Lunches are available and they can accommodate groups. This gang is organized and has a great schedule lined up for the day. For more information, email Molly Mickinak Loggins (mollym@paeyc.org) or call 412-421-3889.

It’s time for education advocates to band together and fight for adequate, equitable, and sustainable state funding for the full spectrum of public education in Pennsylvania.

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