I was pleased to join researcher Rob Grunewald as a presenter at last week’s Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way Summit on Early Education, the focus of the March 18 article, “Early education needs champions.” As a retired Army lieutenant general, I would add that the education we provide to young children is linked to our capacity to protect America and deserves our support!

Here’s why: An alarming 75 percent of Americans ages 17 to 24 are unable to serve in the military largely because they either have dropped out of school, have a criminal background or are physically unfit. To solve this problem, we need to help more young people succeed in school, maintain a healthy lifestyle and obey the law.

Quality early education can help. A long-term study found that at-risk children who did not attend a high-quality early education program were five times more likely to become repeat offenders by age 27 compared to similar kids who did attend. The kids who did attend were 44 percent more likely to graduate than those left out.

That is why we need the governor and our state legislators in Harrisburg to pass a budget that sustains our commitment to Pennsylvania’s early learning programs.

Our national defense depends on the caliber of our men and women in uniform.

Pennsylvania must continue its commitment to quality early education to ensure that more children have a foundation for success, so they can pursue many career paths, including military service if they choose to enlist.

Dennis L .Benchoff,

Lancaster

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