CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — The importance of high-quality early childhood education has been a hot topic in government, as studies show these are pivotal years for development. Nationally, President Biden promotes universally accessible Pre-K education.

Echoing the importance of early learning, the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, and local development center, The Learning Station, met with Representative Kerry Benninghoff today, to discuss their progress and concerns.

They say 900 Centre County children do not have access to early education opportunities.

“Between the ages of zero and five, 90 percent of all learning occurs,” said Lynda Mussi, executive director of The Learning Station.

The Learning Station has been operating in State College since 1984 and is a family business spanning four generations. They want to provide educational experiences that prepare kids for public school and build relationships outside of family.

“We know that the more solid that those kids are, it’s just a higher predictability of them going on and getting their post graduate degrees and things like that,” said Mussi.

Their facilities can hold about 95 children, but with many parents working remotely, Mussi said, “Up until about a month ago we’ve been at 30 percent.”

Those numbers are beginning to rise as offices return to in-person, but the decline had a negative financial impact.

Looking ahead, The Learning Station asked Centre County Representative Benninghoff about more mental health resources and increased wages for staff.

“In our world, if I’m paying somebody 15 dollars an hour and we charge 50 dollars a day, it takes three children to pay for one teacher,” said Mussi.

Benninghoff countered with some economic concerns from his colleagues in Harrisburg.

“For them it’s an economic issue, if we only have a certain amount of money would it be more beneficial to have someone who’s three, four, five, six and actually could be developing on those preliminary education, reading, writing skills that we fundamentally consider precursors for the rest of formal education?” said Benninghoff.

In Pennsylvania, the Wolf Administration has invested an additional $1.4 billion for funding Pre-K through college over the last six years.

The Learning Center says they expect to have full classrooms in the fall.