Center Director Curt Gussler is no stranger to Harrisburg’s Capitol Hill. As Vice President of Support for the Capitol Area Association for the Education of Young Children (CAAEYC), a NAEYC affiliate, Gussler helps award grants to early childhood education programs and scholarships for professional development to ECE teachers, among other things.
Aside from being a dedicated volunteer, Gussler has a healthy interest in public policy and advocacy, and is well-versed in public policy surrounding ECE. Naturally, he thought Capitol Hill would make a great field trip for his school-age students.
“I thought bringing the kids along for an impromptu visit was a great way to engage the kids in real life political action,” he said.
Gussler and his students visited the Pennsylvania State Capitol building to meet and thank their local legislators for their hard work in passing the 2016-17 budget, which included an increase in early childhood education and Head Start funding for the second year in a row.
The visit went better than Gussler could have ever expected—on their way out of the building, he and his students bumped into Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.
“He’s a huge advocate for early childhood education here in Pennsylvania,” said Gussler.
Gussler was pleasantly surprised at his students’ interest during their state capitol visit.
“I think our stop at the capitol really made a connection for them,” he said. “They knew we were meeting the ‘President of Pennsylvania!’”
One of Gussler’s goals in working with CAAEYC is to make sure all families in his area have easy access to voter registration so that their politicians know what issues are important to them—like ECE. And as much as bringing his students to the state capitol was a lesson for them, he knew it was important for legislators to see ECE programs in action, too.
“We weren’t there for ‘the tour,’” he said. “We were there for business, and that business was them!”