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Mary E. Mannix's picture

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One of the best places to be in my state on any given day is in the classroom of a high quality pre-k program.
There you will hear laughter and intriguing conversation.
There you will see smiles and brows furrowed in curiosity.
There you will reassured and valued for your unique gifts.
There you will be encouraged to learn from mistakes and given a chance to try again and again and again and...
There you will receive invitations to play, learn, explore, and grow.
When you leave this classroom you will be ready to succeed.

Sadly, not every child has such a high-quality early learning experience.

After twenty five years in the field, I voluntarily left such a classroom.
For twenty-five years teaching and leading in the early childhood education field, I have explained on a shoe string budget (if the program was lucky enough to have a healthy budget), why this work was important. Why this work that is so often dismissed as "babysitting" has value to every corner of our local community as well as to the security of our country.

Finally in Pennsylvania, there is a growing movement from parents, educators, business leaders, and organizations that value an investment in high quality early learning.

I am supporting  Pre-K for PA. The vision of PreK for PA is for all 3 and 4 year old children in Pennsylvania to have access to affordable high-quality pre-k. Moms, Dads, schools, school districts, and organizations across the state are also lending their voice in support of this mission. Will you join me? Will you join us in supporting PreK for PA so that all children in PA will be ready to succeed?

It is only through the pursuit of this vision that is a concrete example of the belief in the value of high quality early learning that I left such a classroom. The Delaware Valley Association for the Education for Young Children (DVAEYC) asked for help to succeed in this mission. I am honored to devote time to help in such a capacity. Sharon Easterling, Executive Director of DVAEYC explains (and urges) that after decades of early learning being an after-thought while the research grows to its vitality,  "It is time for the smallest children to be allowed to go to the front of the line." (www.dvaeyc.org)

DVAEYC is joined by a cross-sectional sampling of industries in Pennsylvania that know this will help strengthen our state. For example -

Mission:Readiness is the military. From their home page:
"75 percent of 17- to 24-year olds in the U.S. cannot serve in the military, primarily because they are too poorly educated, too overweight, or have a serious criminal record. Investing early in the upcoming generation is critical to securing our nation’s future."
(Read more here: http://www.missionreadiness.org/)

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is law enforcement.
It's Pennsylvania chapter is a principal partner in Pre-K for PA. From their website: "Pennsylvania is spending...more than $35,000 an inmate a year. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spending has increased by more than 1,900 percent from 1980 to 2013-2014."
They go on to explain:
"A long-term study of Michigan’s Perry Preschool found that at-risk children who did not participate in the high-quality program were five times more likely to be chronic offenders by age 27 than children who did attend... The Perry Preschool Program cut crime, welfare and other costs so much that it saved taxpayers an average of $180,000 for every child served.." (http://www.fightcrime.org/sheriff-behr-early-childhood-programs-cut-crim...)

The Economy League is our business community.
"With a child’s brain developing more rapidly during its first five years than during any other period, early investments help establish the cognitive, social, emotional, and language foundations required for future success. Ensuring that children enter kindergarten ready to learn is increasingly being recognized by policymakers and business leaders as important to building a prepared workforce and a thriving regional economy.Well-designed early childhood programs in disadvantaged communities have been found to generate future cost savings of up to $17 for each dollar spent on early learning."(http://www.worldclassgreaterphila.org/earlylearning)

Over 190 organizations across Pennsylvania have signed on in support of high quality pre-k because the value in the early learning experience is vital.

As a teacher and a mother, I have seen first-hand the bar raised for kindergarten readiness in the past eight years. Children who have not had access to a high quality pre-k program are less likely to be prepared for Kindergarten. Even when some of our students are ready; even though some have had the privilege of the quality experience, those who have not are in the classroom with those who have.

Why should taking care of our next generation in a high quality, stimulating environment, during their most formative foundation years be so easily dismissed?
The research and the outcomes are compelling.
Caring for our youngest citizenry is vital to a healthy, successful, safe, and productive community.


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