Two Huge Wins for Children
Students in the 100 poorest school districts across the state will enter schools that are less starved for resources this September because our Level Up proposal was enacted last night by the Pennsylvania Legislature.
We announced this proposal 71 days ago and it was voted into law yesterday.
The newly passed budget provides an increase of $200 million spread across all 500 school districts. On top of that, the Level Up supplement allocates $100 million more, distributed via the Fair Education Formula, to the 100 districts that have the fewest resources and educate the children with the greatest needs.
That was not just a fast win, it IS a huge win made possible by the partnership of PCCY with ACLAMO, CASA, Education Law Center, Education Voters, Keystone Research Center, Lutheran Advocacy Ministries, Make the Road, One PA, Public Interest Law Center, Teach Plus of Pennsylvania, the Urban League of Philadelphia and 50 Superintendents who with their communities rose up and demanded the state accelerate closing the school funding equity gap for their students.
And, just to put a point on it, this year’s education funding increase, which includes $50 million more for Special Education too, is the largest school funding increase in history.
Our youngest children also won big. For the 13th straight year, we secured more funding for high quality pre-K. The new budget includes $30 million in new funding to expand Pre-K and Head Start to thousands of more children.
Heartbreaking Missed Opportunity
The House and Senate Republicans are in the majority. They demanded that billions be put in reserves instead of spent to meet the critical needs of Pennsylvanians. Even the historic increase in education spending leaves schools billions short of what is needed. They blew a historic chance to bridge gaps for children across the state. Instead, many students will have to keep fighting for better resourced schools and families will continue to struggle to find affordable high quality childcare.
The Pa Schools Work Campaign of which PCCY is leading member echoed this sentiment and issued a statement on the budget that reads:
“This budget’s increased investment in public schools does not come close to backfilling the increase in mandated costs to school districts over the last two years, much less the needed investments to offset continued inadequacies in state funding. “Like pennies from heaven, budget negotiators had an almost magical opportunity to shatter the systemic inequities plaguing PA school districts – a rare opportunity to get ahead of rapidly increasing mandated costs, which could have caused a seismic shift in the future of Pennsylvania’s economy, stemmed rising local property taxes, and increased student success; yet they passed up that opportunity.”
Read more about the FY 22 state budget and education here: STATEMENT: PA Schools Work on the GOP’s Proposed 2021-22 Budget | PA Schools Work
Additionally, we had hoped that the state lawmakers and the governor would agree with at least some of our Start Strong Pa campaign’s recommendations for how to best spend $1 billion in federal childcare funds that are to be managed by the state. But they punted. Start Strong PA said that state lawmakers,
“unfortunately missed the opportunity to prioritize families who are struggling to return to work. Ignoring recommendations developed with input from over 1,000 child care providers and parents.”
And we also had high hopes that the state would continue to expand access to home visiting for new mothers, a proven method of improving child outcomes. The Childhood Begins at Home campaign statement read,
“Only pennies on the dollar for evidence-based home visiting are coming in federally. It adds insult to injury that policymakers in state lawmakers and the governor did not step up…”
Read more about the FY 22 state budget and early childhood here: 2021-22 State Budget: Growth for Pre-k; Ignores Recommendations Prioritizing Child Care and Fails to Expand Evidence-based Home Visiting Services | Childhood Begins at Home
While they could and should have done more, we cannot understate the gains we made in this budget for children. The wins are huge and so too is the missed opportunity.
Our advocacy to secure larger investments in children in the next state budget begins today.
Help us make that happen by donating today.