District attorneys, Gov. Wolf push for pre-k funding

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | May 27, 2015 9:47 AM

Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Governor Tom Wolf speaks with Secretary of the Department of Corrections John Wetzel, along with District Attorneys from Cumberland, Dauphin, Lebanon and Snyder counties.

(Camp Hill, Cumberland County) -- District attorneys are standing behind Governor Tom Wolf's proposal to invest more money in early childhood education.

Four Republican district attorneys and the Democratic governor say more investment in pre-kindergarten programs would save the state money and keep people out of prison.

Officials point to a report from a group called Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

The report claims the savings could reach $350 million a year, if Pennsylvania expanded pre-k offerings.

State Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel says pouring money into classrooms requires both thinking long-term and having faith in results in other states.

But Wetzel says if legislators can do that, they'll see there's no wiser investment than pre-k programs.

"And if we can make smart investments on the front end, and reduce the number who come here, and beyond that, take these vulnerable kids and set them up for excellence down the road, why wouldn't we do that?" says Wetzel.

Cumberland County D-A David Freed says district attorneys have a responsibility to improve communities as a whole, not just through the judicial system.

But Freed says on this particular initiative, he's faced resistance from fellow Republicans in the state House and Senate.

"And I sit in there with those legislators, and I advocate not for them to spend more money, necessarily, but to figure out how much money they have to spend, and spend that money on programs that work, and early childhood investments work."

Governor Tom Wolf's budget proposes increasing pre-k funding by a $100 million, but the boost could change in negotiations.

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