On April 30, DOC Secretary John Wetzel participated in a panel discussion at the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission's 11th Annual Early Learning Economic Summit.
The summit brings together business leaders, policy makers and community leaders to examine the latest research and policy developments in early learning. Participants learn, network and collaborate for smart policy investments to impact today's children and tomorrow's economy.
"Research shows that the more educated someone is, and the earlier that someone is educated, the less likely they will be to commit crimes," Secretary Wetzel said. "We know that access to high-quality pre-k education is the key to setting children – especially at-risk children – on a path to a successful, crime-free life."
Wetzel said Gov. Tom Wolf is committed to high-quality pre-k education and its benefits so much so that he is seeking an additional $50 million in his 2019-20 budget proposal.
"Quite frankly, if we don't make this vital investment now, citizens will be paying for this failure when individuals come to my system later as criminals," Wetzel said. "It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."
According to a recent report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, the $50 million increase will provide 5,500 additional slots for eligible children. Currently, more than 97,000 eligible three- and four-year-olds in Pennsylvania lack access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-k every year.
For today's panel discussion, Wetzel was joined by PA Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera; Dr. Jeanette Benacourt, senior vice president for U.S. Social Impact at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street; Dr. Rachel Chazan Cohen, associate professor of Early Care and Education in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston; and Michelle Figlar, vice president of learning with The Heinz Endowments. The panel members discussed the intersection of philanthropy and policy – bringing science and social impact to scale.