HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday continued to push for additional investments to support the youngest Pennsylvanians at the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission’s Economic Summit.
The governor highlighted how his budget proposal includes the bold Statewide Workforce, Education and Accountability Program (SWEAP) to expand opportunity for Pennsylvanians from birth to retirement.
“As governor, I have made investing in early education and the future of our youngest learners a top priority,” said Wolf.
“My administration is investing in early education to expand access to quality programs. We must continue to expand early education to help children start school ready to learn, with the ultimate goal of graduating and helping to strengthen our workforce.”
Parents cannot work if they lack food, housing or child care and children cannot learn if their basic needs are not met.
To break the cycle of poverty, the governor’s SWEAP proposal strengthens and expands access to early childhood education, increases investments in PAsmart and educational opportunities and partners with the private sector to develop innovative solutions that close the skills gap and rapidly meet the needs of employers.
Wolf’s SWEAP proposal includes:
- Expanding access to child care and reducing waiting lists with $15 million in federal funds so nearly 1,000 infants and toddlers would have quality care, enabling their families to go to work or school.
- Enhancing high-quality child care by investing $10 million to incentivize programs to increase their quality ratings through the commonwealth’s STARS program.
- Increasing home visiting with a $5 million increase so more vulnerable can access this evidence-based programs.
- Establishing Parent Pathways with $5 million to enable low-income parents to get the education and training needed for family-sustaining jobs.
- Studying the impact of universal free full-day kindergartenfor all five-year-old children.
Other components of the governor’s SWEAP proposal include:
- ensuring children are in school by age 6 and stay until age 18;
- addressing the teacher shortage by modernizing the minimum teacher salary to $45,000 from the outdated floor of $18,500;
- creating a more skilled and qualified workforce by providing an additional $10 million for PAsmart;
- establishing the Employer Skills Fund; and
- launching the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center to partner with the private sector around workforce development.
In addition to SWEAP, the governor is proposing a $200 million increase in basic education funding, building on the $633 million increase in basic education and Ready to Learn Block Grant funding increases over the past four fiscal years, and a $50 million increase in special education following a $90 million increase over the past four years and a $7 million boost to the state’s system of colleges and universities.
Education is a top priority for Wolf. Under his leadership, Pennsylvania has:
- Increased the number of children able to attend pre-kindergarten by 60 percent.
- Fully restored the $1 billion education cut made during the previous administration that led to teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and program cuts.
- Increased the high school graduation rate to 86.1 percent, placing Pennsylvania above the national average.
- Increased the number of career and technical education (CTE) students earning industry-recognized credentials by 34.2 percent and increased the number of credentials earned by students enrolled in CTE programs by 27.2 percent.
- Provided high school students options to demonstrate graduation readiness as alternatives to standardized testing.
During Tuesday’s summit the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission released a report with Ready Nation that shows investing in high-quality infant and toddler care will grow our economy.