SELINSGROVE — On a visit to Snyder County’s only four-star early education center Thursday, District Attorney Michael Piecuch stressed the need for increased funding to support quality pre-K programs.

As the county’s top law enforcement officer, Piecuch said his main priority is to promote public safety.

To accomplish that, he said, “Front-end solutions are critical. What’s going to prevent (crime) is quality, early education.”

It’s a non-partisan issue among lawmakers in Harrisburg, state Sen. John Gordner, R-27 of Berwick, said.

“Whatever budget we pass, and whatever month we pass it in, I guarantee you there will be additional money for pre-K,” he said. “It pays so much more back in the long run.”

The visit to the Susquehanna Children’s Center was sponsored by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a nonprofit, anti-crime organization of about 200 law enforcement leaders from Pennsylvania that supports pre-K programs.

The center is the only child care facility in the county with the highest four-star designation for staff education, learning environment, leadership and management, and family and community partnerships. The higher the star level, the higher the quality standards.

A mere 4 percent of early learning programs in Pennsylvania currently have a four-star rating.

“This is a rare place,” said Clash.

Only about 30 percent of 3- and 4-year-old children have access to high quality education across Pennsylvania.

Access is even lower, at 14 percent, in Snyder County.

Most children are being cared for by relatives, neighbors, or in day care centers that don’t employ staff trained in child development, said Donna Walter, director of early education services at SUM Child Development.

Providing funding to educators and day care providers to achieve a higher star rating and low-income families to expand access to programs is a better investment than simply pouring more than $2 billion a year into the Department of Corrections, Clash said.

“Kids who go through these programs are more likely to graduate high school and less likely to need special-ed services,” said Clash, adding that educated people tend to become engaged and law-abiding citizens.

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