Pennsylvania’s $31.6 billion budget for fiscal 2016-17 includes some notable increases in investments for children, but it also underscores the work that remains in ensuring all children have the necessary resources to succeed.
“Pennsylvania is losing ground in national rankings for child well-being, and one reason is because we are not being aggressive enough in providing our children and families with the resources needed to ensure success,” Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children President and CEO Joan Benso said. “Budgets – even in the most challenging of fiscal times – are about priorities, and we simply have to start prioritizing our children if we want to ensure the commonwealth’s future growth and prosperity.”
Among the highlights of the fiscal 2016-17 spending plan:
- An additional $200 million for basic education and $20 million for special education, bringing total new education investments over the past two state budgets to $400 million for basic education and $50 million for special education;
- An additional $30 million for high-quality pre-k programs (equal to last year’s pre-k funding increase);
- Nearly $200 million in child welfare funding, which will reconcile expenditures from fiscal 2015-16 as well as address some of the needs established by counties for fiscal 2016-17; and
- $10 million in additional funding for Early Intervention, which provides individualized services and supports to families of children birth to school-age who have developmental delays or disabilities.
While these increases are greatly appreciated (and much needed), they do not go far enough to address the unmet needs of the commonwealth’s children.
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding (which PPC helped found) has estimated that Pennsylvania needs to increase its basic education investments by $3 billion over the next six to eight years. The $200 million increase this year does not put us on a pace to reach that goal. Similarly, we know investments in high-quality pre-k must grow at a much stronger pace if we hope to reach the more than 120,000 at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds who miss out on pre-k opportunities each year.
The enacted budget also failed to include an additional $10 million proposed by the governor to fund Pennsylvania’s evidence-based home visiting programs, and it funds child care services at $12 million less than the governor proposed.
PPC will continue working hard to ensure children have a voice when it comes to Pennsylvania’s budget priorities.
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