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Focusing on a variety of education, health and youth development issues of importance to children and families in Pennsylvania.

Statewide Campaign Proposes Better Way to Fund Our Schools

The Campaign for Fair Education Funding (of which PA Partnerships for Children is a proud founding member) today proposed a student-driven funding formula for basic education that can help boost student outcomes in all parts of the state by helping to close funding shortfalls, improve equity, and ensure accountability and efficiency.

Pennsylvania is in urgent need of such a formula, in part because we are among only three states that lack a predictable funding formula for basic education. The lack of a formula leaves us with no strategic way to drive resources to where they are needed most to help students.

The formula proposed today strategically directs resources to students and school districts with the greatest needs and provides the investment necessary to enable every child to succeed academically. It is driven by several critical student factors, such as the number of students in poverty and the number learning English; and several school district factors, including local tax effort, school district size and charter enrollment.

With Gov. Tom Wolf set to unveil his first-ever state budget plan on March 3, the campaign is hopeful its proposed funding formula will help improve Pennsylvania’s school funding vision for fiscal 2015-16 and beyond.

The Campaign for Fair Education Funding was launched last year to ensure Pennsylvania adopts and maintains an adequate and equitable system of funding public education. It is an unprecedented coalition of nearly 50 groups representing educators, faith-based organizations, children’s advocates, business leaders, labor, charter schools, traditional public schools and representatives from rural, urban and growing school districts.

You can learn more by visiting the campaign’s website at www.fairfundingpa.org.

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Pennsylvania’s Youngest Learners Have Waited Long Enough

The call for stronger investments in high-quality early learning has grown substantially over the years. Unfortunately, the level of Pennsylvania’s financial support for these programs hasn’t kept pace.

Our latest “School Readiness” report, issued earlier today, notes the commonwealth’s investments in early learning programs has been relatively stagnant despite growing support for high-quality early learning programs among policymakers, business leaders, voters, educators and many others. Consider:

  • Just 18.9 percent of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds - or only 1 in 6 children - have access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-k programs.
  • Among children age 0-4 who are in need of child care, only 7.5 percent - or less than 1 in 13 - benefit from high-quality care.
  • About 319,000 Pennsylvania children under age 5 - nearly half of this young population - live in low-income households. Greater access to child care subsidy is critical to ensure parents in these struggling households are able to work and their children are safe and well cared for while they work.

We can do better. In fact, if Pennsylvania is truly committed to creating a competitive, world-class workforce and draw jobs and families in the years ahead, we have to do better.

Two weeks from today, Gov. Tom Wolf will make his first-ever state budget address, marking the start of a months-long season of budget negotiations among state leaders where they will debate the commonwealth’s spending priorities.

We need to make sure high-quality early learning programs are a critical part of that discussion – and investments in these programs need to start matching the supportive rhetoric. You can help in this effort by letting your elected officials know you want to see stronger investments in high-quality early learning.

As our “School Readiness” report notes: “Years of deferred investments in proven early learning programs have added up to missed opportunities for many children – a trend we can reverse if we have the will to make smart choices for future generations and move beyond talk to legitimate action.”

Let’s start reversing that trend now. Pennsylvania’s youngest learners have waited long enough.

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Medicaid Expansion Can Help Cover More Kids

Gov. Tom Wolf today announced Pennsylvania will pursue Medicaid expansion as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act. This is great news for Pennsylvania's children and families because such an expansion will help streamline and simplify access to health care coverage for more uninsured adults, many of whom are parents.

There are an estimated 131,000 uninsured parents in Pennsylvania, and research shows that parents who are insured are more likely to have their children insured. Expanding Medicaid to more adults can help achieve the goal of making sure every documented child in Pennsylvania is insured – a goal that has longstanding, bipartisan support among state lawmakers and many governors over the last two decades.

When parents who are struggling with their own health care needs don't get the appropriate treatment they need, it makes them less able to focus their time and attention on raising their children. The elimination of premiums, the restoration of benefits and the streamlining of enrollment processes that Medicaid expansion achieves will help reach our goal of providing affordable, quality health care coverage to every Pennsylvania family.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children looks forward to working with the Wolf administration to make Medicaid expansion happen as quickly as possible. It's good for kids and good for the commonwealth.

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How Economic Struggles Impact Children’s Health

The Great Recession might be over, but its ripple effects continue to impact children in health care and many other ways, according to a new report issued by the bipartisan children’s advocacy organization First Focus and PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The report, The Effect of the Great Recession on Child Well-Being, was released on Feb. 3 in conjunction with a Congressional briefing that featured remarks from PPC Health Policy Director George Hoover.

Hoover discussed how the lack of health insurance can have a detrimental “snowball effect” on a child’s life and explained how Pennsylvania’s CHIP and Medicaid programs help to keep our commonwealth’s children healthy during turbulent economic times. These programs can be critical for children and families because:

  • When parents lose their jobs, employer-based coverage is no longer available and quite often COBRA or private coverage becomes unaffordable.
  • Children who have insurance generally have better school attendance, meaning they are likely to do better in school. In the long-term, this is better for the child, the family and our economy.
  • Children who lack insurance are less likely to see a doctor and get the preventive care they need, which can lead to delayed diagnoses and result in more severe medical problems and higher treatment costs.

Unfortunately, our health care coverage structure for kids is at risk unless Congress acts to extend federal funding for CHIP. While CHIP is authorized through Sept. 30, 2019, it is only funded through Sept. 30, 2015. If Congress does not authorize more funding by Sept. 30, about 147,000 children currently receiving coverage through CHIP stand to lose that coverage.

To learn more about the urgent necessity of extending CHIP funding, visit papartnerships.org/chip.

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Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children gratefully acknowledges the support of the following funders:

The Hershey Company

Highmark Blue Shield

The PNC Financial Services Group

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‘Pre-K for PA’ Visits the PA Capitol

Pre-K for PA supporters hit the halls of the state Capitol this week to deliver education kits to members of the General Assembly so they know the many benefits of expanding access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k.

Among the campaign supporters making legislative visits was Patricia Hunter, executive director of Spring Garden Children’s Center in Easton, Northampton County. 

“I joined the Pre-K for PA campaign because I believe that when parents raise their voice together, Harrisburg listens,” Hunter said. “As an early childhood educator, it breaks my heart that not all young learners get the opportunity to enter kindergarten with an equal and solid foundation.

“I am encouraged by Gov. Tom Wolf’s campaign promise to expand access to high-quality early education and hope that the legislature will work with him to accomplish this laudable goal,” she said.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children shares that hope. That’s why we decided to be a founding partner in the statewide, nonpartisan Pre-K for PA campaign, as well as the Early Learning PA campaign,  which is advocating for a comprehensive early childhood system that ensures that Pennsylvania's children, particularly its most vulnerable, have access to the education and support they need to enter school ready to learn.

As a new legislative session gets underway and we await Gov. Wolf’s first budget address in early March, we hope you’ll join us in pushing for expanded opportunities for all young learners.

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Sen. Browne Receives ‘Be Someone for Kids’ Award

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children this week bestowed our first-ever “Be Someone for Kids” award to Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) in recognition of his hard work over the years to improve public policies and increase state investments that benefit the commonwealth’s children.

During his legislative career, Sen. Browne has shown a strong concern for the well-being of Pennsylvania’s children, as well as a keen understanding of how public policy can impact their lives.

Among his notable work for kids:

  • He has been a long-time advocate for early learning programs, beginning with The Ounce of Prevention Act in 1999, which established Pennsylvania’s first home-visitation law to support at-risk families and their newborn children.
  • As a member of Senate leadership, he has been a vocal budget negotiator to speak up for early learning investments.
  • Sen. Browne helped establish and co-chairs the Early Childhood Education Caucus, a bipartisan and bicameral caucus with more than 120 members created to support high-quality early childhood care and education programs.
  • He helped write the law that created the Basic Education Funding Commission and currently co-chairs the commission, which is examining the commonwealth’s public school funding system.
  • He led efforts to enact a law that created the Special Education Funding Commission, which he also co-chaired. Some of the commission’s recommendations for a new funding formula were signed into law as part of the 2013-14 Fiscal Code, and this new formula was used to distribute the first increase in special education funding since 2008-09.

PPC launched the “Be Someone for Kids” award this year as a way to honor those who have made extraordinary efforts to help Pennsylvania’s nearly 2.8 million children.

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Let’s Tell Congress: Extend CHIP Funding

Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is set to expire at the end of September 2015. This funding supports health care coverage to more than 150,000 children in Pennsylvania today.

Over the past two decades since it began, CHIP has enabled hundreds of thousands of children to receive affordable, quality health care coverage. It has become an essential form of health care coverage for working families and provides access to quality physical and behavioral health care, as well as vision and dental benefits. Without action by Congress, CHIP coverage for Pennsylvania’s children could soon end.  

Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation needs to hear from its constituents to ensure CHIP stays funded. Your voice is critical to this effort!

Please join individuals and organizations in telling our members of Congress that we want their leadership and support for continued investment in CHIP. Take these two simple steps:

1) Add your name and/or the name of your organization to this letter asking PA Congressional members to support the extension of CHIP.

2) Forward this message to a friend and ask them to add their name and organization.

Pennsylvania’s children and families are counting on our help. 

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The Future of CHIP

Did you know health insurance status is the single most important factor impacting children’s access to health care?

Kids who have insurance are more likely to be immunized, receive regular checkups and get prompt treatment for common childhood ailments. Pennsylvania is fortunate to have a strong bipartisan history of providing health care coverage to children through Medicaid and CHIP. Pennsylvania started one of the first children’s health insurance programs in the nation in 1992 to help provide quality coverage to children in working families with incomes above Medicaid levels, but insufficient to purchase private coverage. Federal CHIP was patterned after Pennsylvania’s successful program and funded for all states in 1997.

Because CHIP, in combination with Medicaid, was succeeding at providing health care coverage for children, the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) was built on top of it. The ACA authorized CHIP through 2019. But because CHIP is not an entitlement, funding is not permanent and is only authorized through September 2015. PPC is advocating that federal CHIP funding be extended, preferably to coincide with the 2019 reauthorization deadline.

We were pleased to see the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health hold a hearing on the future of CHIP on Dec. 3. Testifiers discussed how CHIP works and how the ACA has impacted the program. PPC has expressed concerns that without CHIP families would have to pay higher out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles and co-pays, for similar coverage on the marketplace than they pay with CHIP. It is also important to note that if the program is not funded, the affordability test (the so-called “family glitch” in the ACA) would leave many children with no coverage options, as no subsidy would be available to purchase coverage on the marketplace. These points were raised by witnesses at the hearing as well.

Pennsylvanians are fortunate that U.S. Reps. Joe Pitts (PA-16) and Tim Murphy (PA-18) are members of the subcommittee and are very engaged in this issue. Both previously served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, so they understand the commonwealth’s program as well. Rep. Pitts, who serves as the subcommittee chairman, opened the hearing by noting: “In 1992, as a member of the state House of Representatives, I was proud to vote to create Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as PA CHIP.” He called for extending federal CHIP funding and said that even though funding won’t end until September, states need certainty sooner rather than later due to budgeting timelines.

Also during the hearing, a question from Rep. Murphy to a testifier verified that, without CHIP funding and with the existence of the family glitch, many children likely would lose health coverage. Rep. Murphy concluded his remarks by noting that “Pennsylvania’s CHIP program has demonstrated strong value” and rather than cut something that is working, Congress should learn from the program and ensure families don’t go without insurance.

PPC thanks Reps. Pitts and Murphy for their focus on this issue and thoughtful comments during the hearing. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on progress towards extending CHIP funding for the more than 150,000 Pennsylvania children that depend on it for their health care.

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Our Message to You on #GivingTuesday

Today is #GivingTuesday, a great day to be someone who makes a difference for kids by supporting Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children!

At PPC, we’re committed to developing long-lasting policy solutions in children’s healthcare, child welfare, early learning and quality K-12 education. In 2013-14, our strategic approach to children’s advocacy has contributed to:

  • The enactment of more than 20 new child protection laws, including laws to improve reporting of suspected abuse and to hold abusers to the same legal standards no matter where abuse occurs;
  • Improving the accessibility of children’s health care through reauthorization of Pennsylvania’s CHIP program and elimination of a six-month enrollment waiting period;
  • Creation of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, a statewide, nonpartisan effort by more than 40 organizations representing a diverse range of interests working to find a better way to fund our public schools so every child has the resources needed to succeed academically; and
  • The launch of two other nonpartisan campaigns – Pre-K for PA and Early Learning PA – focused on boosting the state’s investments in high-quality pre-k and other proven early learning resources.

With your help, we look forward to building on these successes and achieving more wins for children in the year ahead!

PPC doesn’t seek or receive any government funding. Instead, our efforts are funded through the generous support of people like you who agree that someone needs to speak up for children and families.

This #GivingTuesday, will you please join us to “BE SOMEONE” who makes a difference by making an online donation to Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children?

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High-quality pre-k “has just done amazing things”

As a founding partner of the statewide Pre-K for PA campaign, we wanted to share a quick story with you from a parent who has seen the benefits of high-quality pre-k.

Earlier this week, representatives from the Pre-K for PA campaign (including PPC President and CEO Joan Benso) were featured guests on a central Pennsylvania talk show, making the case for why Pennsylvania needs to drastically expand access to high-quality pre-k for the commonwealth’s 3- and 4-year-olds. A mom named Julie from York County called in to share how she found an affordable Pre-K Counts program for her son, who she feared might not be prepared to succeed in kindergarten. In Julie’s own words …

“It has just done amazing things. I was against (enrolling him in) kindergarten because I just knew that he wouldn’t be able to handle being in a classroom that long. And now, no worries whatsoever after him being able to be in this program. He didn’t need it for the academics. He needed it for the social, he needed it for the emotional stuff. … He has just succeeded so well in this program that I wish it was available more.”

We wish it were more available too, Julie. That’s why we’re working hard to make the case for increasing state investments in high-quality pre-k programs like Pre-K Counts and Head Start.

And that’s why the Pre-K for PA campaign needs voices like Julie’s – and yours – to tell Gov.-elect Tom Wolf and the General Assembly that investments in high-quality pre-k need to be a priority for 2015.

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