Several district attorneys in Pennsylvania are standing behind Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to invest more money in early childhood education.
Four Republican district attorneys and the Democratic governor appeared Tuesday at Camp Hill prison to urge lawmakers to allocate more funding in pre-K programs. The investment, they said, would boost high school graduation rates and reduce the number of people in prison. All of that would save money.
Officials point to a report from the group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, which estimates Pennsylvania could save up to $350 million a year if it were to expand pre-K offerings.
District attorneys have a responsibility to improve communities as a whole, not just through the judicial system, said Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed.
But on this particular initiative, Freed said, he’s faced resistance from fellow Republicans in the state House and Senate.
“I sit in there with those legislators, and I advocate, not for them to spend more money necessarily, but to figure out how much they have to spend, and then to spend it on programs that work,” Freed said. “And early childhood investments work.”
State Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said funneling money into classrooms requires long-term thinking and having faith in the results other states have documented.
If legislators can do that, Wetzel said, they’ll see there’s no wiser investment than pre-K programs.
Wolf’s budget proposes increasing pre-K funding by $100 million, but that figure could change during negotiations.