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

Join the Campaign for Fair Education Funding

Every Pennsylvania student deserves a quality education no matter where that student lives. But Pennsylvania’s public school funding system is failing our children:

  • It does not provide enough resources to educate all students to academic standards.
  • It contributes to deficiencies in equal opportunity based on factors like income and race.
  • It is so unpredictable that school districts cannot effectively budget or plan.

That’s why Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children has joined the Campaign for Fair Education Funding - an unprecedented coalition of more than 50 organizations from across Pennsylvania - to ensure Pennsylvania adopts and maintains an adequate and equitable system of funding our schools.

We need you to join, too.

The campaign’s proposed formula could enable every child to meet state academic standards, be prepared for post-secondary success, and become productive, knowledgeable, and engaged adults.

Visit fairfundingpa.org to learn more about why we need a fair funding system and sign up to support this effort.

You can also follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

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May 14 Call to Action: It’s Time for Fair Funding for PA Students

Tomorrow (Thursday, May 14) is statewide “Call to Action for Public Education Day.” Join thousands of parents, students, teachers and community members from across the state to speak up in support of our public schools.

The message is simple: An adequate, equitable system for funding Pennsylvania’s public schools must be a top priority at the Capitol this budget season.

This effort will require a student-driven funding formula for basic education that strategically directs resources to students and school districts with the greatest needs and provides the investment necessary to enable every child to succeed academically.

You can help us send this message to Harrisburg on Thursday by investing just a few minutes of your time. Here are three quick things you can do to make a difference on May 14:

  1. Call your state senator.
  2. Call your state representative.
  3. Call Gov. Tom Wolf’s office (717-787-2500) and encourage him to hold strong on his support for fair funding for public schools.

(Click here for talking points and instructions on how to find your legislator.)

Please take a few minutes on Thursday, May 14, to help ensure a bright future for Pennsylvania!

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Another Year of Missed Pre-K Opportunities

When it comes to offering high-quality pre-k, Pennsylvania still isn’t making progress, according to a new report out today from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

NIEER’s latest State of Preschool report finds that, among states offering publicly funded pre-k programs:

  • Pennsylvania has dropped to 15th in the nation (down from 14th last year) in pre-k access for 3-year-olds. Five years ago, we ranked 11th nationally.
  • Pennsylvania remains stuck at 30th in the nation in pre-k access for 4-year-olds – the same ranking we held last year. Five years ago, we ranked 24th nationally.

The good news is we know how to turn this around – and you can help.

The governor has proposed increasing state funding for high-quality pre-k by $120 million in the coming fiscal year so about 14,000 more Pennsylvania 3- and 4-year-olds can benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity. This investment would increase access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k from about 1 in 6 of our 3- and 4-year-olds to about 1 in 4. It’s a big step in a much longer journey to make high-quality pre-k available to every family that wants it for their child.

Here’s how you can help: Tuesday, May 12, is Early Childhood Action Day at the state Capitol. Join us in Harrisburg to let state lawmakers know we need to invest more in high-quality pre-k. Can’t make it? You can still lend your voice by taking part in Virtual Action Day tomorrow.

You also can join the Pre-K for PA campaign’s Capitol Caravan and make a trip to the Capitol at your convenience to talk to your lawmakers.

With your help, more Pennsylvania children can benefit from high-quality pre-k and the lifelong advantages it offers.

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You Need Quality Teachers to Have Quality Pre-k

Today is Teacher Appreciation Day, a great time to recognize the critical role teachers have in student success – a role that begins in a child’s earliest years.

The Pre-K for PA campaign is working to ensure high-quality pre-k is available to every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania. A core ingredient of high-quality pre-k programs is degreed teachers with early childhood training. (In Pennsylvania, such programs include Pre-K Counts, Head Start, private academic nursery schools, STAR 3 and 4 child care programs and pre-k operated by public schools.)

Fortunately, all publicly funded pre-k programs in Pennsylvania require teachers to have college degrees and early childhood training. Unfortunately, only about 1 in 6 of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds have access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k.

Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed an additional $120 million in pre-k funding for fiscal 2015-16 that would allow about 14,000 more young learners to benefit from publicly funded, high-quality pre-k. This investment would increase access from 1 in 6 of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds to about 1 in 4. It’s a big step in the right direction, but Pennsylvania will need multiple years of increased investments to reach the goal of making high-quality pre-k universally accessible.

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REMINDER: Early Childhood Action Day is May 12

Early learning advocates from across Pennsylvania will converge on the state Capitol on Tuesday, May 12, for the annual Early Childhood Action Day. If you haven’t already registered to attend, there’s still time.

On action day, scores of early learning professionals, parents, advocates and supporters make the rounds at the Capitol to deliver the message to state legislators that high-quality early childhood education must be a priority issue. Attendants will visit one-on-one with state legislators and host an afternoon rally in the Capitol Rotunda.

If you are unable to attend in person, you can still speak up for early learning investments by taking part in Virtual Action Day.

Whether you join us in person or online, please sign up and speak up for the need to invest in early learning!

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Happy Kindergarten Day

It’s been roughly two centuries since German educator Friedrich Fröbel pioneered the idea that young children were like plants in a garden who would thrive with the proper mental and emotional nurturing. Thus was born the idea of “kindergarten.” Fröbel was born on this date in 1782, so April 21 is now designated as “Kindergarten Day” in his honor.

Since Fröbel’s time, we’ve come to understand how much a child’s brain develops in the critical years before kindergarten. Decades of research has shown that high-quality pre-kindergarten prepares young learners for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Perhaps that’s why a majority of Pennsylvania voters across party lines strongly support increasing the availability of pre-k. Yet only about 1 in 6 of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds benefits from publicly funded, high-quality pre-k. We can do better for our kids and our commonwealth.

Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed increasing investments in high-quality pre-k by $120 million in fiscal 2015-16, including an additional $100 million for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and a $20 million funding increase for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP). These are strong steps toward ensuring every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania has access to high-quality pre-k.

You can help ensure these investments happen by joining us in the statewide, nonpartisan Pre-K for PA campaign and letting your elected leaders know you want smart, effective investments to help ensure every child arrives in kindergarten with the strongest possible foundation to learn for a lifetime.

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CHIP Wins in Harrisburg, Washington

It’s been a good week for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), with legislative victories in both Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., that will help keep about 150,000 Pennsylvania kids insured.

Last night, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that extends federal CHIP funding for another two years, through September 2017. The measure, which previously passed the U.S. House, now awaits the president’s signature. (UPDATE: President Obama signed this measure into law on April 16.) Pennsylvania’s two senators – Democrat Bob Casey Jr. and Republican Pat Toomey – both voted for the measure, as did the commonwealth’s entire House delegation.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children would have preferred to see CHIP funding extended for four years, a time frame that would align with CHIP reauthorization deadline of September 2019. But we are still pleased to see federal lawmakers have at least averted a potential short-term funding crisis that could have jeopardized CHIP coverage.

At the state level, the Pennsylvania House Insurance Committee earlier this week unanimously approved a bill (House Bill 857) that reauthorizes Pennsylvania CHIP through Dec. 31, 2017. The commonwealth’s CHIP is currently set to expire at the end of 2015 if not reauthorized, and we are hopeful this legislation will quickly make its way to the governor’s desk.

CHIP has received strong, bipartisan support from Pennsylvania’s elected leaders since it was launched more than two decades ago – support that was evident in this week’s votes. We thank all of those who voted to keep CHIP going to help keep Pennsylvania’s kids insured.

You can learn more about CHIP in PA at our website.

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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 Celebrates ‘Week of the Young Child’

Supporters of the statewide, nonpartisan Pre-K for PA campaign* are marking the Week of the Young Child by hitting the halls of the Capitol to urge stronger state investments in high-quality pre-k. 

Week of the Young Child is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers and families. To kick off the week, parents and early learning educators who are part of the Pre-K for PA “Capitol Caravan” visited the Capitol to make the case for pre-k investments.

Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed increasing investments in high-quality pre-k by $120 million in fiscal 2015-16, calling for an additional $100 million for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and a $20 million funding increase for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP).

These investments are sorely needed if Pennsylvania wants to fully tap into the broad fiscal, education and social returns on investment that high-quality pre-k provides. Currently, only about 1 in 6 of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds benefits from publicly funded, high-quality pre-k. We can – and should – do more to ensure all young learners have the opportunity to benefit from it.

Can’t visit Harrisburg to make the case for pre-k in person? That’s OK, there are still several ways you can make your voice heard. Visit the Pre-K for PA “Minute to Win It” page and see how you can support this effort.

* Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is a proud founding member of the Pre-K for PA campaign.

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Pennsylvania’s ‘Devastatingly Large’ Problem

A new analysis of education funding across the country confirms what many in Pennsylvania already know: When it comes to equitable funding of our public schools, the Keystone State comes up short – way short.

In fact, Pennsylvania has one of the worst education funding gaps in the nation, according to a new report by The Education Trust, an independent national education policy organization. The report found:

  • Pennsylvania has the nation’s third largest funding gap between high-poverty and low-poverty school districts when funding is not adjusted for the needs of low-income students (only Illinois and New York fared worse).
  • When funding is adjusted for the additional needs of low-income students, Pennsylvania falls further in the rankings to having the second largest funding gap (behind only Illinois).
  • Pennsylvania’s state-level share of school funding tied for fourth lowest in the nation.

Overall, the report called education funding inequities across the nation “devastatingly large,” and cited Pennsylvania’s as among the worst.

These findings underscore the urgent need for the commonwealth to find a better way to fund our public schools. Part of the solution needs to be a sustainable, predictable and student-driven formula for funding basic education. (Right now, Pennsylvania is one of only three states that lacks a predictable formula for basic education funding.)

If you agree that Pennsylvania can and should do better, sign up for email updates from the Campaign for Fair Education Funding. This statewide, nonpartisan campaign was launched last fall (with Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children as a founding member) to help ensure every public school student - regardless of zip code - has the resources necessary to succeed in school and beyond.

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Expanding the Child Care Tax Credit

Last month, we issued a new School Readiness report that found only 7.5 percent – or less than 1 in 13 – of Pennsylvania children age 0-4 who are in need of child care benefit from high-quality care. In many cases, these young learners cannot benefit from high-quality child care because their working parents cannot afford it.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) took a step toward making child care more affordable by introducing legislation to expand the federal child care tax credit.

In announcing his plan, Sen. Casey cited a Pew study of Census Bureau data that found average weekly child care expenses (measured in inflation-adjusted 2013 dollars) rose from $87 in 1985 to $148 in 2013 - an increase of more than 70 percent. Other data demonstrates that the cost of child care for two children can exceed housing costs for some families in Pennsylvania.

But making child care more affordable benefits more than just those young learners and their families. High-quality child care has a ripple effect that ultimately benefits every Pennsylvania taxpayer and bolsters the commonwealth’s competitiveness in a global economy.

When we make child care more affordable, it gives parents more reliable options for ensuring their kids are safe and cared for during the work day. Workers and employers appreciate quality child care because it promotes peace of mind that helps employees focus on their work, making them more reliable and productive.

The bottom line: Sen. Casey’s proposal can help many more families in Pennsylvania afford the high-quality child care that will help their children grow and develop to their full potential and help make Pennsylvania a stronger economic competitor.

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Comments from readers of Blogging4Children do not necessarily represent the views of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.