Elaine knew she couldn’t afford to send her twins to the same preschool their older sibling had attended and the family loved.
“We were looking at a bill of at least $4,000 a year for both of them,” she said. “There was just no way.”
Then Elaine, whose husband was deployed to Qatar at the time, found out about Erie’s Future Fund Pre-K scholarships for income-eligible Erie County, Pennsylvania, families.
Erie Insurance is the largest funder of the program, with a donation of about $220,000.
So Elaine applied for the scholarships. She felt a weight lift from her shoulders the day she found out her family qualified. The scholarships meant she could send Micah and Jacob to any certified preschool in the region — including the family’s top choice.
“Preschool was really important to give the twins a good base when they go to kindergarten next year,” Elaine said.
Early Education Investments Mean Big Payoff Later
In fact, preschool is proven to make significant short- and long-term impacts on a child’s education and future. Studies by Nobel laureate James Heckman for instance, shows that kids who have attended preschool are less likely to need special education services and more likely to graduate on time.
Long-term benefits, meanwhile, are multi-generational. As adults, kids who participated in a quality preschool program showed better employment, health, cognitive and socio-emotional skills, and even had more stable marriages than their peers.
“Ninety-five percent of child brain development occurs before the age of 5, so when we can reach young learners at that age it makes such a difference in their future,” said Kimberly Beers, the Scholarship Director for Erie’s Future Fund and the vice president for community outreach at Early Connections, which acts as Erie’s Future Fund administrator.
Erie’s Future Fund was formed in 2011, an outgrowth of the Erie Community Foundation’s Early Childhood Advisory Panel and in partnership with United Way of Erie County, Success By 6, members of the Early Learning Investment Commission, and Erie Together.
ERIE has been a partner since the beginning.
The donation to Erie’s Future Fund is worthwhile because of the proven returns on preschool investment, said Ann Scott, ERIE’s community outreach coordinator.
“The impact early childhood education has on kids’ lives and our community is incredible,” she said.
State Tax Credits Make Significant Giving Possible
ERIE makes its donations to Erie’s Future Fund through Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. The state established the EITC in 2001 as a way for businesses to earn tax credits by donating to an educational improvement organization. For-profit companies that commit to a two-year donation through EITC are eligible for a 90% tax credit.
“That’s huge, of course,” Scott said. “So we donate the maximum amount we can.”
ERIE’s commitment to donating to Erie’s Future Fund has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of Erie families.
“Because of Erie Insurance, we’ve served at least 1,400 preschool scholars in Erie County since 2012,” Beers said.
Did You Know?
For-profit companies of any size throughout Pennsylvania are eligible to take part in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program. Learn more about the program and apply for the upcoming round of funds.
Whether it’s community service, customer service or claims service, doing the right thing is what we’re all about. Learn more about our culture of service or see what we’ve been up to with the ERIE Giving Network. See more stories by searching #ERIEforgood wherever you share on social media.