Pennsylvania State Budget Prioritizes Education
Pennsylvania's 2018 Legislative Recap
Pennsylvania lawmakers agreed on a 2018-19 state budget that again prioritizes early childhood initiatives. This budget increases access to early childhood programs for thousands of additional young children in the upcoming school year.
Specifically, the 2018-19 spending plan included the following expanded investments to early learning:
- $20 million for PA Pre-K Counts
- $5 million for Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program
- $6.8 million for Child Care Services
- $6.73 million for evidenced-based home visiting
The final budget package also invests an additional $100 million for basic education (K-12) funding. This new money will be routed through the new Fair Funding Formula and will work to reduce funding inequities among Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.
Below are highlights of the efforts of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Mission: Readiness, and ReadyNation members that contributed to the budget debate in Harrisburg.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids PA continues to fight for increases in high-quality pre-k programs because the preponderance of scientific research shows that at-risk young children who participate, compared to their peers who do not, are significantly less likely to commit juvenile and adult crime, need special education or repeat an early grade, and are more likely to graduate from high school and be productive members of society.
High-quality pre-k is an effective way to break the generational cycle of poverty, crime and poor educational attainment. In April, we released a new report containing the latest research, a survey of all incoming male PA state prison inmates regarding their early experiences, and testimonials by PA state corrections officials.
A new report from Mission: Readiness PA, entitled The Military Gets It; So Why Not PA?, touts the military’s child care system by showing how high-quality early care and education programs support working families and help address the problems that disqualify the vast majority of young Americans from military service. Within the report is research showing that high-quality pre-k and child care programs can support children’s success and readiness in three categories:
- Education: A long-term study of more than 1,300 children found that children in higher-quality child care were better prepared for school at age four compared to children in lower-quality child care.
- Obesity: Child care that emphasizes healthy eating and physical activity can help reduce children’s risk of obesity.
- Behavior: The previously cited long-term study of more than 1,300 children found that children in higher-quality child care had significantly lower levels of behavior problems at age 15 compared to children in lower-quality child care.
Rear Admiral Tom Wilson, U.S. Navy (Ret.) hosted PA State Representative Lynda Schlegel-Culver at a high quality child care center to release a new Mission: Readiness report showing how high-quality early care and education programs support working families and help address the problems that disqualify the vast majority of young Americans from military service.
Furthermore on the issue of military readiness, Mission: Readiness member Rear Admiral (Ret.) Thomas Wilson, III, US Navy, wrote to encourage state leaders to prioritize the readiness of the next generation in regards to education and military service.
This is critical because 13 percent of Pennsylvania’s youth ages 16 to 24 are unemployed and not in school, and 13 youth out of 100 ages 17 to 24 have an arrest record.These findings (link to citizen readiness index?) show that too many young adults in our state are disqualified from our military and ill-prepared to work in our businesses.
Pennsylvania needs to ensure that every student has the chance to adequately prepare for college or career, regardless of where they live. Adequate resources for every Pennsylvania school and early childhood education and care programs helps ensure opportunity for all, and in doing so, solidifies a bright future for our youth and our country.
Evidence-based home visiting/parent coaching programs recognize that parents are children’s first teachers, but sometimes parents need help.
Collectively, these programs strengthen parenting, reduce maternal and juvenile crime, reduce dependence on public assistance, improve child readiness for school and help put families on paths to self sufficiency. They even have a role to play in supporting families with children who are experiencing the ravages of the opioid crisis.
At left, long-time Fight Crime: Invest in Kids member Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman (between the “Lancaster” posters) participates in a discussion with legislators about the benefits of evidence-based home visiting programs on April 12, 2018 at Women and Babies Hospital in Lancaster.
At right, Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis (under “Luzerne County” poster) spoke at the home visiting roundtable with legislators, home visitors and participating mothers at the Luzerne County Head Start facility in Wilkes-Barre on May 24, 2018.
In preparation for this year’s session, ReadyNation PA released a new report in November detailing the risk of our current skills gap and the role that adequate school funding can play in closing that gap and helping Pennsylvania’s economic competitiveness.
Adequately funded schools can help close the skills gap allowing all students to gain the knowledge and skills they need to be career- or college-ready. The investment made by the state legislature this year in our new Fair Funding Formula, is a step towards closing our state’s skills gap and ensuring all students are prepared for postsecondary education or a career.
Furthermore, leaders of ReadyNation PA have stated that adequate and equitable funding through Pennsylvania’s fair funding formula is needed to improve the quality of the state’s labor force.
If we expect to compete and succeed in the global marketplace, we must act now to ensure our employers have the skilled workforce we need.
Additionally, ReadyNation member and President of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation, L. Michael Ross shared his opinion recently in an op-ed published in January, regarding the workforce skills gap.
Ross noted that Franklin County’s economy is experiencing nearly unprecedented growth, currently the unemployment rate is calculated at 4%. However, this is misleading. Many Franklin County employers have vacant positions they cannot fill simply because there are not enough qualified applicants. Ross went on to advise that boosting access to high quality pre-K and investing more long-term state funding through Pennsylvania’s fair education funding formula will address these inequities and help to close the skills gap ensuring a brighter economic future for all.