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Senator Pat Browne

Early Childhood Education Caucus Introduction 

The bi-partisan, bi-cameral Early Childhood Education Caucus – the largest legislative caucus in Pennsylvania with over 120 members – was created in 2010 to support high-quality early childhood care and education programs in Pennsylvania that promote health and educational development for our at-risk children. 

Many scientific and well-recognized studies show that investments in early childhood education programs, especially for at-risk children, earn $7 to $16 for every dollar invested. The Early Childhood Education Caucus continues to work to reaffirm our commitment to provide the resources that give many Pennsylvania children an extra boost that helps them succeed in school and later in life.

Meet the Co-Chairs of the Early Childhood Education Caucus

Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh County) co-founded and has served as a co-chair of the Early Childhood Education Caucus since its creation in 2010. Senator Browne serves as Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman as well as a member of the Banking and Insurance, Education, Finance and Transportation Committees. He is also a member of the Senate Majority Policy Committee. Senator Browne currently serves as Co-Chair of the Basic Education Funding Commission and previously served as Co-Chair of the Special Education Funding Commission. Senator Browne represents the 16th Senatorial District and was first elected to the State Senate in 2005. He previously served in the state House of Representatives starting in 1995.

“Programs such as Pre-K Counts, Head Start and Keystone Stars have a proven track record of success and have demonstrated that children who participate in early education programs are better equipped to maximize their primary and secondary education experience. Young people who fall behind in school are more likely to drop out and are less likely to become productive and successful members of their communities and of our highly-skilled and competitive workforce.” - Senator Browne

Representative Mark Longietti (D-Mercer County) has served as a co-chair of the Early Childhood Education Caucus since the fall of 2014 and has been a member of the caucus since its inception in 2010. Rep. Longietti serves as Democratic Chair of the Committee on Ethics, Basic Education Subcommittee, and Recreation Subcommittee, and is a member of the Commerce Committee, Consumer Affairs Committee, and Committee on Committees. He is also the Vice Chair of the House Democratic Policy Committee. Rep. Longietti serves on the Basic Education Funding Commission and previously served on the Special Education Funding Commission. Rep. Longietti represents the 7th Legislative District and was first elected to the state House in 2006.

“Access to quality early childhood education is critical as research shows that 90 percent of brain connections are developed by age five. Yet, in Pennsylvania today, only 18 percent of three- and four-year-olds have access to high-quality early childhood education programs. That’s why proposals to make significant new investments in Pre-K Counts and Head Start are so important. After all, peer reviewed studies show that such investments produce a return of $7 to $16 for each dollar invested.” - Representative Longietti

Early Childhood Education Action Day at the Capitol

Early Childhood Education (ECE) Action Day brought hundreds of early learning professionals, parents, advocates and supporters of early education programs to the state Capitol in Harrisburg to deliver the message that funding for high-quality early childhood education programs is a top priority.

Early Childhood Education Action Day, which was held on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, included a Rally in the Main Rotunda as well as a day-long presence in the East Rotunda where legislators could stop by and get detailed information about early childhood programs in their districts.

Those attending Early Childhood Education Action Day also had the opportunity to visit their state legislators.

Stay In Touch and Help the Cause

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Legislative Membership

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2014-15 State Budget Included Increase in PA Pre-K Counts Program

Last year, thanks in large part to the successful efforts of the Early Childhood Education Caucus & early learning advocates, the 2014-15 State Budget was approved with a $10 million increase in funding for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts programs. The additional funding brought the total increased investment in Pre-K Counts since 2011 to $13.6 million or a 16.3 percent increase. For an additional 1,670 Pennsylvania pre-school children, this will provide access to high-quality early learning services.

Pre-K Counts provides research-based, high-quality pre-kindergarten opportunities to at-risk children across the commonwealth by leveraging existing early education services in school districts, Keystone STARS childcare programs, Head Start and licensed nursery schools. These programs help more of our children perform at grade level, graduate from high school, succeed in college and earn more as adults.

Early Learning in PA

Each year, about 150,000 children enter Pennsylvania’s kindergarten classrooms. Some are ready to learn, but many are not. Investing in high-quality early learning opportunities prepares our children for school success, boosts the economy and generates short- and long-term economic results. By any measure, early learning is a smart investment.

Pennsylvania has an array of high-quality programs focused on early childhood development and education that are managed through the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), which is overseen jointly by the Department of Education and the Department of Human Services. They include:

  • Early Intervention - Early Intervention (EI) Services focus on at-risk infants and toddlers or those with developmental delays up to age five to ensure they receive needed services and supports to maximize their development. In fiscal 2013-14, more than 88,500 children birth to school-age received EI services.
  • Home Visiting – In home visiting, nurses and other trained professionals visit families beginning as early as pregnancy through age five to empower parents to make healthier decisions for themselves and their children’s health, well-being, learning and development. More than 20,400 children were helped in fiscal 2012-13 through four evidence-based home visiting models (Early Head Start, Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents as Teachers) that serve all but two of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties (Potter and Warren).
  • Child Care – The Commonwealth’s subsidized child care program, Child Care Works (CCW), makes child care more affordable to low-income working families and allows parents to be more focused and productive on the job. On average, about 116,000 children participate in CCW each month.  High-quality child care providers also help prepare our children for school success. Keystone STARS is Pennsylvania’s quality rating improvement system for child care and offers families a valuable tool to gauge quality in programs. An estimated 166,000 children are enrolled in Keystone STARS facilities. Training, professional development and technical assistance are offered to help providers attain higher levels of quality and funding is provided to attain and maintain quality levels and support providers caring for subsidized children. Rising STARS is an initiative within the Keystone STARS program designed to ensure more at-risk children have access to the highest quality child care providers. Pennsylvania also regulates and enforces operating standards for over 8,100 child care facilities (child care centers, group child care homes, and family child care homes) to ensure the health, safety and rights of children.
  • Pre-K – Pennsylvania has a variety of public and private programs to provide high-quality pre-k. Programs that have reached key quality standards include Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP), and Keystone STAR 3 and 4 programs. In fiscal 2013-14, about 56,206 preschool children had the opportunity to attend publicly funded pre-k in our state, but that amounted to only about one in six of Pennsylvania’s three- and four-year-olds, leaving many children without this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. High-quality pre-k is especially beneficial to children whose educational opportunities are hindered by poverty or other circumstances, helping them enter kindergarten better prepared and less likely to struggle to keep pace with their peers.

Fight Crime: Invest In Kids

Fifty percent of Pennsylvania’s state prison population has failed to receive a high school diploma.  Education is often that pivotal factor between possible incarceration and productive citizenship.  

Long term studies are clear that at-risk children that participate in high-quality early care and education programs are less likely to commit crime, be arrested, incarcerated and less likely to use drugs.  They are also more likely to graduate from high school and not require ongoing social services.

Pennsylvania spends just over $2 billion for the Department of Corrections - preventing people from turning to crime in the first place would save the public millions of dollars.


Carlisle Police Chief Stephen Margeson

Early Learning Promotes National Security

Seventy-two percent of today’s young Pennsylvanians are not eligible for military service because they lack adequate education, are medically or physically unfit or have disqualifying criminal records.

This shocking reality is concerning because it undermines the military’s efforts to recruit high-quality individuals. High-quality early learning programs can help to better prepare our children to be citizen ready by boosting graduation rates, deterring youth from crime and even reducing obesity rates, all while providing a significant return on investment.

This is why the Department of Defense has developed their own early care and education system available to all active duty families. To learn more visit or read our recent report

Lieutenant General
U.S. Army
(Ret.) Dennis Benchoff


Building Assets for the Future Workforce

By: Peter Danchak, President, Northeast Region, PNC Bank
Co-Chair, Early Learning Investment Commission

In recent years, employers have started looking for more and more workers with specific proficiencies: science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) skills, and executive function skills that prepare employees to work on a team, display leadership, think critically, and practice self-discipline.

Based on personal experience, I can tell you that the banking industry requires expertise in both areas.  Executive function skills help workers to better interact with colleagues and clients, become more organized, and better prepare to adjust to changing circumstances. In fact, 93 percent of more than 300 employers surveyed agreed that a candidate’s demonstrated executive function skills are more important than their undergraduate major.

Additionally, STEM jobs continue to be in high demand in the United States. While there are 3.6 people for every one job across all U.S. occupations, there is only one person for every 1.9 jobs in the STEM field.  In the next 10 years, STEM jobs will grow by 17 percent, compared to 9.8 percent for all other occupations.

So, how do we help employers find workers to suit their needs?  The answer lies in quality early childhood education.

Approximately 90 percent of the brain is developed by age five. Tests measuring different forms of executive function skills indicate that these skills begin to develop shortly after birth, with ages three-to-five being a window of opportunity for the most dramatic growth.  Research also confirms that the brain is particularly receptive to learning STEM between the ages of one and four.

Quality early learning programs play a key role in developing both executive function and STEM skills, as the child has the opportunity to interact with peers and authority figures, as well as to nurture their scientifically inquisitive natures (young children ask an average of 76 questions per hour).  And providing children with early exposure to quality STEM experiences enhances their later interest in related career fields.

In short, the early years are the best time for an individual to become an asset to the future workforce. To learn more, please visit Pennsylvania’s Early Learning Investment Commission’s website at


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