Early learning pays

| Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

I was pleased to read in the news story “United school board agrees to add Pre-K staff, hires finance director” (July 26 and TribLIVE.com) of the expansion of pre-K classrooms within the United School District. As a retired Army lieutenant general, I know such early-education investments are important for our future national security.

The Department of Defense reports 75 percent of people ages 17 to 24 are unable to enlist in the military, largely because they either fail to graduate from high school, have a criminal record or are physically unfit. Left unchecked, this level of ineligibility presents a real recruiting problem for the future.

It is clear that Pennsylvania and the nation must do much more to adequately prepare our children. High-quality pre-K has been shown to improve academic performance and increase graduation rates — making sure more children possess the skills necessary to one day serve as the backbone of our military or civilian workforces.

With this in mind, my fellow retired generals and admirals of the nonprofit national-security organization Mission: Readiness applaud Gov. Corbett for the expansion of quality early-learning services in this school year.

It is unfortunate, though, that waiting lists for these services still abound. In fact, less than 17 percent of Pennsylvania's 3- and 4-year-olds are served by publicly funded high-quality early education. Corbett and the Legislature must continue to increase our investment in Pre-K Counts, Head Start and high-quality child care to reduce this unmet need and better ensure that our next generation is citizen-ready.

Dennis L. Benchoff


The writer is a former Army Recruiting Command chief of staff.

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