What’s wrong with unicorns and rainbows? – Feb 9, 2024



“As I listened to that budget, [it was] a bunch of unicorns and rainbows…” said Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R – Westmoreland).

In a time when children and teens continue to struggle, they could use some unicorns and rainbows to give them hope. And Governor Shapiro’s budget delivers not only hope, but opportunity and sound fiscal footing.

Governor Shapiro’s budget is a win for nearly every aspect of a child’s development from birth to young adulthood – over 50% of all new spending is focused on making the lives of children better. On top of that, his proposal limits state spending growth, leaving $10 billion in state surplus after accounting for his priorities. 

The Governor’s budget colors outside the lines when it comes to public education funding – in a very good way:

  • Nearly $900 million more going to poor rural, suburban, and urban schools that educate most of the PA’s Black, Hispanic, and low-income students.
  • An extra $200 million to be distributed to public schools statewide.
  • $522 million in additional funds for student support like school-based mental health services, college/career readiness, and school facilities. (See details in our full budget analysis.)
  • A standard $8,000 cyber charter school tuition, saving local districts about $262 million a year. (Our Centro de rendimiento de PA Charter recommended this policy change two years ago, and education advocates like you have been pushing for this commonsense reform.)

If young children in child care and pre-k drew a picture of the Governor’s budget, it would include hearts and rainbows:

  • Nearly $33 million in additional funding for pre-k, helping programs hire great teachers and begin to re-open shuttered pre-k classrooms.
  • Nearly $32 million more to raise the state’s reimbursement rate for child care providers which will alleviate some – but not all – of the rising facility, food, utility, and supply costs, and may also begin to help programs boost wages.

And young people living in communities dragged down by racism, neglect, and violence might start to envision opportunity at the end of the rainbow:

  • UN $60 million increase to the Violence Intervention and Prevention Programs that can protect and engage young people.
  • Un nuevo $11.5 million for positive youth activities through the Building Opportunity through Out of School Time (BOOST) program.
  • Additional funding for stronger oversight of educational programs offered in juvenile detention facilities. (Children First has long called on state agencies to make sure that state licensed facilities housing children provide quality education or be shut down.)

Finally, young children could grow up healthy with the plans in the Governor’s budget, something even brighter than a rainbow or unicorn:

  • Guaranteed continuous Medicaid coverage for children from low-income families ages birth to six years old, eliminating administrative burdens that often cause children to lose access to health care in their formative years. 
  • $18 million more for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to insure 27,000 additional PA children.

Not everything in Shapiro’s budget plan is hearts and flowers so we have our work cut out for us this legislative session to make changes:

  • We need to ensure the legislature codifies six more years of education funding increases to reach the $5.4 billion boost recommended by the Basic Education Funding Commission and much needed by students. 
  • We need to expand public insurance eligibility so every PA child has heath coverage.
  • We need funds remove hazardous lead paint from homes and child care centers.

It’s disappointing to hear the Senate leader dismiss Governor Shapiro’s plan to invest in Pennsylvania as “rainbows and unicorns,” especially when the state has $14 billion in the bank. We can afford to nurture our children’s hopes and dreams, so today’s rainbows and unicorns are tomorrow’s brighter futures.

Send a message to your state senator and representative, urging them to build on the Governor’s plan for a bold investment in our children’s futures.

The American Enterprise Institute and others are objecting to the federal Child Tax Credit, claiming it will create an “unrestricted cash welfare program” not much needed tax relief for low-wealth families.

Be at the decision-making table for kids and hold elected officials accountable for their promises to children, teens, and families!

Children First’s Parents Empowered for Change program is accepting applications for two powerful programs that will help you take your ideas for change and turn them into action.

Learn more and apply here.

“It is simply wrong to put children in adult
prisons. Conservatives and the most progressive
Democrats agree on that. It is wrong to throw
children as young as 10 years old into cells where
adults shiver from both fear and cold. It is downright
wrong to write off young lives as if they were nothing; nothing at all.”

Penn Live Editorial Board