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Advocates call on Pa. lawmakers to increase early childhood education funding

Advocates say thousands of children are missing out on childcare programs due to low wages for staff.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — With a deal for the Pennsylvania State budget on the horizon, advocates gathered at the Capitol Rotunda to call on lawmakers to increase funding for early childhood education.

“To put it bluntly, Pennsylvania is facing a crisis in childcare," said Donna Cooper, executive director of Children First.

Advocates with Children First say over 30,000 children in the Commonwealth are missing out on early childhood education programs. They say the problem is attributed to childcare workers leaving the industry due to low wages.

“I have lost count of how many childcare workers have said to me when I pick up my child, ‘Grandma, this is my last week," said grandparent Shantel Drake-Murray.

Jessica Shertzer with Nature & Nurture Discovery School says her business is one of many in the area that has not been operating at full capacity due to worker shortages. She says low wages are making it harder to find highly-qualified childcare workers.

“Those type of people, who are great for our kids and make great environments, will not work for $12, $11, $10, even $15 an hour," said Shertzer. "They deserve more than that, their education and experience is worth more than that."

Shertzer says several daycares throughout the Commonwealth have even been forced to close due to the lack of adequate staff—leaving many families without childcare.

“There’s just not enough spots for the children that need care, and we can’t create more spots without highly educated staff," explained Shertzer.

Advocates with Children First say wage increases for all childcare workers would only take up one percent of the $12-billion surplus in the Pennsylvania budget.

Shertzer argues it’s a worthy investment.

“We’ve got to dedicate those funds to our staff. We have to invest in our staff because it ultimately invests in our children," said Shertzer.

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