Problem NOT Solved – Jan 26, 2024



Governors of every stripe are asking their legislatures to make historic increases in funds for child care and pre-k.

In just the last 12 months, New York Governor Kathy Hochul won legislative approval for a hefty half billion more for child care. In the heartland, Minnesota’s Governor Walz added a whopping three quarters of a billion dollars to shore up child care and pre-k programs to serve more families. And, Washington’s Governor Inslee successfully made the case for a new corporate tax, earmarking the projected half a billion dollars in new revenues for early learning.

Closer to home, every year since taking office, Governor Murphy has successfully pushed the Garden State to boost funding in his annual march to permanently build funding for universal pre-k for every child in New Jersey’s state budget before he leaves office.

These Democratic governors could rely on their Democratic legislatures to cooperate and make these investments possible. But child care and pre-k have impressive bipartisan support. Case in point, Colorado voters, who are split 50/50 between the two parties, rejected a ballot measure last fall to cut taxes, voting to maintain state taxes that fund the state’s $24 million universal pre-k program.

And Republican Governors are stepping up to the plate. That move is driven in part by the red state of Oklahoma where, since 1998, every four year-old has been guaranteed a high-quality pre-k program before starting school. As a result, the OK state is delivering more than okay high school graduation and college enrollment rates. More recently, Governor Youngkin of Virginia, a man not known to lean left, announced his plan to push for $440 million to increase access to great early learning.

Clearly other states are realizing there’s a child care crisis, and there are real opportunities presented by investing in early learning opportunity. They are making this cause a top priority.

What’s our governor doing? Last December, House Democrats helped the Governor secure a tax credit that will cut the taxes of about 210,000 families by enabling them to deduct $2,000 a year in child care expenses on their tax returns. Parents who are lucky enough to be able to find and afford child care are elated by this move.

Yet thousands of PA parents are on waiting lists for child care because there is a child care access crisis in Pennsylvania.

A relatively small sample of the 6,000 early learning programs across the state reported more than 26,000 children languishing on waiting lists as of last fall, forcing parents to miss work or just not work at all.

Low wages are the root cause for the exodus of early education teachers that force programs and classrooms to close. As of last September, 2,400 jobs vacancies were reported among about 700 early learning programs and simply no qualified applicants to hire.

We are two weeks away from Governor Shapiro’s second budget address.  The Governor rhetorically made a strong case for solving this crisis in his first budget address last March. That FY24 budget proposal included about $100 million more for child care. Those funds filled the hole created by the expiration of temporary COVID relief funds used in the prior year to keep child care afloat. Thankfully, the state plugged that hole rather than exacerbate the crisis.

On February 6, the Governor will have a second opportunity to show families that he gets their pain. He can demonstrate that he hears the pleas of the tens of thousands of parents who want to go to work, take new jobs, or add work hours to boost their pay. He can also demonstrate that “getting STUFF done” means getting the right STUFF done. Tens of thousands of young children need and deserve the smart start in life that great early learning programs provide.

Our partners in the Pre-K for PA and Strong Start campaigns offered the governor the blueprint to solve this crisis. Let’s call on Governor Shapiro to adopt that plan and join the league of governors putting the future of their state’s children and the prosperity of families first in the state budget because that would really be getting stuff done.

Call/text Governor Shapiro’s office at 717-788-8990 and tell him why you want him to prioritize early learning in his upcoming budget plan. 

February 7th is the one-year anniversary of the historic Commonwealth Court ruling in favor of education funding and the day after Governor Shapiro releases his state budget. Rally with us at the State Capitol as we call on lawmakers to abide by the constitution and significantly invest in public education.

Click here for information – including rideshare requests – and registration.

While we wait for the summer Olympics, join us to see if Governor Shapiro goes for the gold for kids in his February 6th state budget proposal. Join us via Zoom and Facebook Live as Children First judges evaluate his plan and see if kids and teens are the real winners. Register here.
“The root problem is that Pennsylvania has
been underinvesting in public schools for
decades, with economically disadvantaged
public schools seeing particular divestment.
The importance of public schools must be
acknowledged and prioritized. Public schools
are where all students are guaranteed an
education – full stop.”
– A letter to Governor Shapiro signed by 357
school board members from across the state
calling on him to
prioritize funding for public