Pennsylvania Goes 2-for-3 in Early Learning in 19-20 State Budget
We’re happy to report that the outcomes of our FY 2019-20 state budget yielded mostly positive outcomes for the 2.8 million children living in the Keystone State. Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) is the only statewide non-partisan advocacy organization with a public policy agenda that spans the life of a child from birth to adulthood, and we take the word ‘partnerships’ in our name seriously. That’s because together with our partners in the Early Learning Pennsylvania coalition, we get results. The coalition has three distinct but coordinated campaigns: Pre-K for PA (pre-K), Childhood Begins at Home (home visiting) and Start Strong PA (child care).
Two of our victories included securing a $30-million increase in pre-K funding and a $5 million increase in home-visiting funding, serving in total an additional 3,000 children and families. We’ve been able to achieve $145 million in increases for pre-K funding since our work began with the pre-K for PA campaign five years ago, and more than $15 million in additional state support for home visiting since the Childhood Begins at Home coalition formed three years ago.
Unfortunately, the enacted budget doesn’t include any state investments in child care. It was actually “cut” by $36 million, which policymakers argue is offset by federal funding. We’ve been finding that while federal increases in CCDBG funds have helped address things like waiting lists and tiered reimbursements, they are a barrier to garnering additional state support, including in our Democratic governor’s office. Gov. Wolf’s budget proposal did not contain any state support for child care, making it a very heavy and unlikely lift for the Republican-led legislature to add in.
The second half of the year will have its share of challenges, particularly as we work to move the governor’s administration to propose state investments in child care in next year’s budget, in addition to larger proposed increases in pre-K and home visiting than we’ve seen from him in the past. We’ll also be engaged in ongoing discussions with the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (and its new deputy secretary) on the future of evidence-based home visiting in the state as it continues to expand, how the office allocates monies based on its interpretation of need, how a rate increase for pre-K providers might be realized and ensuring we are the receiving comprehensive datasets we need for analysis and advocacy.
Pennsylvania is also a recipient of the Pritzker Children’s Initiative Prenatal-to-Age-Three planning grant, so in the next few months we will finalize our work to form a comprehensive policy continuum to expand access to maternal and children’s health care, evidence-based home visiting programs and high-quality child care for an additional 25 percent of low-income families and children.
Thinking holistically about our policy areas and not having them operate in their traditional silos has us excited at PPC. As we move our work forward for the rest of the year and into 2020, how we capitalize on the intersections of early learning, children’s health, maternal health and child welfare will be at the forefront of our strategy.
- Carolyn E. Myers, Communications Director, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children