Pa. ranks 38th in the nation for early childhood education programs, report | Wednesday Morning Coffee

August 14, 2019 7:15 am

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

If there’s one thing that experts across the spectrum can agree upon, it’s the importance of early childhood education. A quality early learning experience can make all the difference in the world in a child’s educational experience.

In fact, as we noted elsewhere in 2017, there’s a mountain of data out there showing that kids with access to high-quality, early childhood education exhibit higher levels of proficiency in math and reading; they’re less likely to be held back in the primary grades and more likely to graduate high school; they need less remediation, and there’s less of a need for individual education plans, often formulated for struggling students.

“Early learning programs are a ‘fork in the road’ opportunity to reduce the number of future criminals by placing more at-risk children on a secure path to school and life success,” David Freed, the United States Attorney for Pennsylvania’s Middle District, said in a 2016 interviewFreed was the long-serving, elected Republican district attorney for Cumberland County.

Over the last few years, Pennsylvania has been steadily ramping up public support for early childhood education programs. The $34 billion budget plan that lawmakers and the Wolf administration agreed to back in June includes $50 million in new spending for both early childhood and special education programs, PennLive reported.

Despite that progress, a new report suggests that Pennsylvania still has some ground to make up.

Source: WalletHub

According to a new analysis by the financial literacy site, WalletHub, Pennsylvania ranks 38th in the nation for the quality of its early childhood education system.

To reach that conclusion, WalletHub’s policy wonks said they compared all 50 states and Washington D.C. across 12 different metrics. The data they examined included the “share of school districts that offer[ed] a state pre-K program to the number of pre-K quality benchmarks met, and [the] total reported spending, per-child enrolled in pre-K.”

“A study by the National Institute for Early Education Research showed that students enrolled in full-day pre-K programs do better on math and literacy tests than their peers who attend only partial day preschool,” WalletHub’s analysts wrote. “In addition, those who attend pre-K programs have been shown to have less risk of future crime than those who do not. Plus, pre-K programs may generate billions of dollars for the economy over a few decades, due to lessening the need for social services and creating more productive citizens.”

Gov. Tom Wolf (Flickr)

Here, according to WalletHub, are the 10 best states:
1. Nebraska
2. Washington D.C.
3. Maryland
4. Vermont
5. Arkansas
6. West Virginia
7. Rhode Island
8. Illinois
9. Alaska
10. Kentucky

And the 10 worst, again, according to WalletHub’s analysis:
1. New Hampshire
2. New York
3. Minnesota
4. Arizona
5. Kansas
6. Massachusetts
7. North Dakota
8. Missouri
9. Mississippi
10. Indiana

(U.S. Department of Education / Flickr)

Some other interesting data points, again, according to WalletHub, include:

  • “Fourteen states, such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland and South Carolina, have the highest share of school districts that offer state pre-K programs, 100 percent, which is 11.5 times higher than in New Jersey, the state with the lowest at 8.67 percent.
  • “Oklahoma has the highest share of 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-K, pre-K Special Education and Head Start programs, 85.60 percent, which is seven times higher than in Utah, the state with the lowest at 12.30 percent.
  • “Hawaii has the highest income requirement for state pre-K eligibility, $56,790, which is 6.9 times higher than in Minnesota, which has one of the lowest at $8,230.
  • “Washington D.C. has the highest total spending per child enrolled in preschool, $18,580, which is 23.9 times higher than in North Dakota, which has one of the lowest at $777.
  • “Washington D.C., Iowa and New York, have some of the lowest monthly child care co-payment fees (as share of family income), 1 percent, which is 17 times lower than in Hawaii, the state with the highest at 17 percent.”

Asked how residents can know whether their tax dollars are being spent wisely on early childhood programs, one expert told WalletHub they should “look for [the] use of evidence-based practices and highly qualified educators. It’s tempting to cut corners, but having high quality materials, curriculum, and personnel are important.”

To improve their systems without raising taxes, that same expert, Stanford University education professor Victor R. Lee, said policymakers should “prioritize education as an investment priority. Using existing tax funds for investments in school systems. Changing the discourse around teaching and schools to highlight the positive and the high quality work that is being done so that we don’t dissuade high quality people from entering educational professions.

“Right now, educators feel very underappreciated given the discourse of accountability and criticism leveled at teachers who are already working very hard,” he said.

WikiMedia Commons

Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison
 has everything you need to know about the charter school reform plan that Gov. Tom Wolf rolled out on Tuesday morning.

Stephen Caruso road-tripped it to lovely York, Pa., for a Senate GOP hearing on finally eliminating local property taxes.

Caruso also brings you up to speed on a newly filed class action lawsuit seeking to recoup what a non-union plaintiff says were coerced union dues.

On our Commentary Page, Opinion regular Simon F. Haeder, of Penn State University, says it’s time for the state to put a little muscle behind efforts to fight a new Hepatitis A outbreak. And a group of medical students at Drexel University College of Medicine and nurses at the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals are calling on Gov. Tom Wolf to increase public funding to keep Hahnemann University Hospital open.

The Philadelphia Skyline from the ‘Rocky Steps’ at the Philly Art Museum. Photo by Steve Lange, courtesy of Flickr Commons.

Pennsylvania’s biggest cities are succeeding while rural areas are stagnating, causing the state to miss out on broader gains in innovation, the Inquirerreports, citing a new study.
Gov. Tom Wolf has called for a halt to all ICE arrests that lead to family separations, Pittsburgh City Paper reports.
PennLive looks at what’s changed — and what hasn’t — a year after that scathing clergy sex abuse report.
An Allentown nursing facility has lost its state license after the death of a 14-year-old boy, The Morning Call reports.
No, you didn’t build that. President Donald Trump tried to take credit for the Shell cracker plant during his trip to W.Pa on Tuesday, the Tribune-Review reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

Public health experts in New Jersey and Pa. are warning that a new Trump administration immigration rule will expand the ranks of the uninsured, WHYY-FM reports.
WPSU-FM looks at a new job-training program for those living with autism.
Actor Idris Elba is filming in Philly’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, sparking a case of Elbamania, BillyPenn reports.
The Incline would like you to meet Pittsburgh’s green energy and environmental innovators.
Tennessee has made it harder for advocacy groups to to register voters. Which is, y’know, just awesome (via
explains why U.S. taxpayers picked up the tab for a Trump hotel in Canada.

Gov. Tom Wolf 
heads to Pennsylvania Furnace, Pa. to tout the PA. Farm Bill during an Ag Progress Days celebration.

You Looking At Me?
In case you were wondering about the depth of the Dems’ commitment to sweeping the Philly ‘burbs, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick to its 2020 ‘Retirement Watch List.’ This new designation means that Fitzpatrick, who’s voting with the Dems so often that Nancy Pelosi must surely be asking “Who’s that dude again?” is not only targeted, he’s, like SUUUPPPER-TARGETED.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to constant reader, and Pa. Banking Dept.deputy comms director, Virginia Daniely Lucy, of Harrisburgwho celebrates today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a great one from Lake Street Dive, it’s a remix of ‘I Can Change.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
 dropped an 8-3 decision to New York on Tuesday.

And now you’re up to date. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.