Governor Tom Corbett. Photo: Courtesy of Governor Corbett's Office
Governor Tom Corbett. Photo: Courtesy of Governor Corbett’s Office

“‘That’s you!’ an excited preschooler said to Gov. Tom Corbett, looking at the governor and then at his photo in the classroom, placed between photos of President Barack Obama and Mayor Bill Peduto.”

As this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette goes on to explain, Corbett, the governor of Pennsylvania, was visiting a preschool classroom in Pittsburgh’s Small World Early Childhood Center II, Downtown. He had come to call for a larger state investment in early education.

“Before making his pitch, Mr. Corbett read ‘Stop Snoring, Bernard!’ to the class. He said the book was a favorite of his young grandson.”

As for Corbett’s proposed 2014-2015 state budget, it would add an extra $25.5 million to early education funding, including “$10 million for PreK Counts, which would make it possible for 1,670 more children to attend quality preschool programs statewide,” according to the article.

PreK Counts provides high-quality, half-day and full-day pre-kindergarten to nearly 12,000 3- and 4-year-olds who are at risk of failing in school and whose families earn up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. These children may also be English language learners or have special needs, according to Pennsylvania’s Department of Education.

Corbett says increasing funding for early education is “the best investment going.”

In this Post-Gazette video of Corbett’s visit to the preschool program, he says, “I’m always impressed with how the children are so excited to learn. And the more we can encourage that excitement, the more it’s going to carry on: through elementary school, through middle school, and through high school.”

After the 2008 Recession, Pennsylvania cut education spending, a fact that Corbett addressed in the budget speech he made in February, according to an article in the Times-Herald.

“Early in my administration, of course, we were faced with the problem of the vanishing federal stimulus money. It had been used to pay for education, and when it was gone there was nothing left in the General Fund to fill the gap,” Corbett said.

In that speech, Corbett also pointed to the power of blended funding, saying that a strong state investment in early education “combined with the recent $51 million we were awarded in the federal Race to the Top grant for early learning, means that Pennsylvania will continue to provide some of the best early childhood education programs in the nation.”

If Pennsylvania makes this extra investment, more of the state’s children would get a running start in school and in life. That is indeed one of the best investments around.