Barely a third of children ages 3 and 4 in Luzerne County are enrolled in high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, according to a new report, leaving about 4,500 children without access to such programs.
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children issued the report, titled “A Smart Choice for a Solid Start: The Case for Pre-k in PA,” touting the value of high quality pre school programs, a recurring theme with the advocacy group.
The report contends “a growing body of research shows that gains made by 4-year-olds in publicly supported pre-K programs lead to improved early literacy language and math skills entering kindergarten, reduced special-education placement through second grade, reduced grade repetition through eighth grade, and increased likelihood of high school graduation and college enrollment.”
The Partnerships also released county-level data on family income for children below age 5, those getting into high-quality pre-K programs, and those without access to such programs.
With 33 percent of children ages 3 and 4 in quality programs, Luzerne County is doing better than the statewide rate of 30 percent, but worse than 29 other counties, including neighboring Lackawanna, Columbia and Sullivan, where the rates are, respectively, 47 percent, 37 percent and 51 percent.
The report looks at children living under 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which would be $59,370 for a family of three.
In Luzerne County, 74 percent of children 3 and 4 are under that level, compared to 60 percent statewide, and 63 percent in Lackawanna and Wyoming counties.
In fact, Luzerne County has the highest rate among adjacent counties.
The report rattles off a variation of what has become a recurring list of long-term gains credited to pre-K programs:
Every dollar spent on pre-K returns up to $17 in saving and benefits from reduced education and social costs later, districts can recoup up to 78 percent of pre-k costs in reduced educational costs later, pre-k can increase employment rates and income in adult life, and $1 invested in pre-K can saves $2 to $11 in crime-related savings by reducing chances a child later lands in the justice system.