The Children Need More – Mar 10, 2023


Gov Budget Proposal Not Enough to Meet Kids’ Needs

It’s hard to get the piercing question from Oliver, “Please sir, may I have some more?” out of your head after reviewing the state budget proposed by the new governor. Governor Shapiro could have used the swollen state surplus to meet the urgent needs of children, but he didn’t.

In truth, the Governor made sure programs serving children don’t starve but his plan does not fill their cups to meet the urgent needs in health and education.  Lawmakers in the PA House and Senate must build on the governor’s plan to fully respond to the indisputable and critical needs of the children of the Commonwealth.

For those who want to page through our analysis of this budget drama, click here.

The short hand is that, even after the Commonwealth Court ruled that Pennsylvania’s state school funding system is unconstitutional, the proposed budget includes just enough new state funds to cover the costs of inflation. Although the governor referred to the resounding court decision in his budget address, it’s as if the court’s findings were lines in some other play.

To make matters worse, the budget proposal fails to continue the powerful, bipartisan tool known as Level Up, which started to resolve the school funding gap between the high- and low-wealth districts. Even with all the lawsuit ammunition, the tool that that drove more funds over the last two years to the 100 poorest districts didn’t even make it into the script.

Our youngest children fared worse. With 35,000 children on child care waiting lists and 4,000+ staff vacancies causing child care centers to close in droves, the governor’s plan was devoid of a solution to the crisis. To be fair, at least with respect to Pre-K Counts and Head Start, Governor Shapiro heard the chorus and increased state payments for these proven programs. Sadly, though, those new funds aren’t enough for new children to enroll.

There are some highlights in this drama. The proposal includes a first step to expand career-related learning with $24 million in new state funds; impressive investments of $100 million to remove toxic lead, asbestos, and mold from schools; a strong push for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; and an ambitious plan for finally getting mental health parity solidly into law. Add to that, new investments in mental health of more than $120 million and the story line definitely improves.

But the drama is just beginning, and kids are starting with only half of the script. Now is not the time to be stingy when it comes to children. The state has $11 billion in the bank and corporate tax cuts are already on the table. Now the House and Senate must make big changes and respond to the plea from children who are begging for “more.”

Have you seen our March Budget Madness Broadcast? Three hours after PA Gov Shapiro concluded his first budget address on Tuesday, we aired our live reaction to his financial plan for the state. A little funny mixed with a lot of information!

Sign your name to St. Patrick’s Day cards we’re sending to legislators thanking them for past budget votes, and reminding them that high-quality, affordable early learning should go to all of PA’s youngest learners, not just the lucky ones.

The FBI and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children have reported skyrocketing numbers of online predators who cajole children to take naked pictures of themselves. Learn how to protect your children.

Low wages for early childhood educators has a harsh impact of low wages on teachers’ lives and the child care sector overall.

Mai Miksic, our Early Childhood Education Policy Director, was interviewed on her new report, The High Cost of Working in Early Childhood Education which details

Listen to her live radio interview on WITF in our state capital.

In his budget proposal, President Biden
restores the full child tax credit enacted
during the COVID crisis to $3,600 per child
under six and $3,000 per child six and older.
He also proposes a national paid family
and medical leave
program, which would
provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave.