Rendell Urges Support for Child Care Services in Final State Budget

HARRISBURG – After more than 48 days without a final state budget, Gov. Edward G. Rendell has called on legislators to support funding that provides child care services for more than 135,000 Pennsylvania children.

Rendell said funding levels proposed under Senate Bill 850 would have caused nearly 8,000 children to lose their child care subsidy and join the 16,000 children already on the waiting list. As a result, Pennsylvania would then have to forfeit $60 million in federal stimulus money.  The Governor expressed concern for the working parents of children losing services, wondering what their options without care may be. 

“Without access to quality and affordable child care, these families will be left in a terrible bind,” said Rendell.  “Will they settle for less reliable care that puts their children’s future at risk; or lose their jobs, collecting unemployment and potentially cycling onto the welfare rolls?  It pains me to think of the difficult decisions families must face without this funding.”

Standing with child care leaders from across Pennsylvania, Rendell reminded legislators that an investment in child care is an investment in the economy. He again made clear he would not support any plan that would cut essential services that significantly impact long-term economic growth.

“The child care sector has the highest multiplier effect for public investment of any sector in Pennsylvania,” said Rendell.  “For every public dollar we invest in child care facilities, more than two dollars is circulated into the economy through jobs and goods and services.”

For more information on the Governor’s budget proposal, visit www.pa.gov.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Attached are supportive statements from advocacy organizations:

Statement of Childspace Cooperative Development Inc.

Dear Governor Rendell,

Thank you for continuing to insist on the  passage of a budget that would fund Child Care Works and  all of the early education programs that have been helping to improve both the quality of early education, and access to these programs by all Pennsylvanians.  As you know, quality improvement programs including Keystone Stars, Pre-K, Head Start and TEACH have been effective in increasing the number of quality early education programs.  It is critical that full funding of early education be in the final budget, not the cuts included in the Senate bill 850.

We know that economic realities make these budget decisions very difficult.  However, we also know that quality early education is worth the investment and actually saves money in the long run as children enter school ready to learn and to eventually join the productive work force. Thank you for understanding the value and supporting early education.

Sincerely,
Yvonne Thompson-Friend, Board President    
Janet Filante, Executive Director

Statement of the Pittsburgh Area Association for the Education of Young Children

The Pittsburgh Area Association for the Education of Young Children will only support a budget that fully funds Head Start Supplemental, Keystone STARS, Child Care Works, Pre-K Counts, and Early Intervention. 

We support Governor Rendell in rejecting the early childhood portion of SB 850, which would have resulted in the loss of early childhood services to thousands of children.

Our children and families deserve a quick resolution to the budget impasse, but funding all these essential services must be the result – our future economic competitiveness is at stake.

Sincerely,
Michelle Figlar, Executive Director

Statement of Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children

As the membership organization for over 1,900 early childhood practitioners in the Delaware Valley, we are deeply concerned about the budget impasse.  We need a budget that invests in our youngest children, and we need one soon.

We support the Governor in rejecting the early childhood portion of SB 850, which would have resulted in the loss of early childhood services to thousands of children.

The Senate budget bill, including both state and federal stimulus funds, would spend a total of $27.3 billion, which is $1.7 billion less than the budget proposed by Governor Ed Rendell.  Early childhood programs were particularly hard hit:

• Pre-K Counts is reduced from $95 million to $43 million, a cut of 55 percent.  6,500 fewer children will be enrolled in Pre-K Counts classrooms in the fall.

• Head Start Supplemental Assistance is cut by 50 percent, from $39 million to $19 million. 2,800 children will be cut from Head Start classrooms.

• State funds for pre-k early intervention would be cut by $7.2 million.  Federal funds that would expand early intervention to more children will be used instead to replace state funds, leaving 850 children without EI services.

• Nurse-Family Partnerships are cut $3.7 million from the Governor’s proposal.

• Child care services were reduced for the current fiscal year (2008-09). The Senate budget proposes additional cuts in child care subsidy and Keystone Stars.

• Child care services for working parents would be reduced from $171 million to $159.7 million, a cut of $12 million.  Subsidy for 2,000 additional children would be eliminated and the waiting list of 16,000 families would continue to grow.  $4 million in additional funds for Keystone START quality improvement is eliminated.

• Child care assistance funds would be cut by $12 million, including 3,397 subsidy slots expected as a result of increased TANF caseloads.

• CHIP, the health insurance program for Pennsylvania’s children will be cut by $7.7 million. 9 percent fewer children will have health care than initially projected.

With no budget, early childhood programs that serve state-subsidized children are among the first casualties.  Most of these programs are run by small providers who don’t have the financial cushion to ride out weeks of non-payment.  However it’s important to keep in mind that the solution is not Senate Bill 850, which would gut the quality early childhood system that has been built up in the state over the past seven years (and has been referenced by President Obama as a model for the nation). 

The early childhood community in Pennsylvania is reeling from the immediate effects of the budget impasse, while holding out for a budget that makes a smart investment in our youngest citizens.

Sharon Easterling, Executive Director    
Pamela Haines, Public Policy Director

Statement of the Pennsylvania Child Care Association

The Pennsylvania Child Care Association (PACCA) is a statewide, non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating the provision of quality early care and education to the children of Pennsylvania.  Early childhood investments support our economy. Drastic cuts to early learning programs so policymakers can balance a state budget will support neither our children nor Pennsylvania’s economy. We support the Governor in rejecting the early childhood portion of SB850, which would have resulted in the loss of early childhood services to thousands of children.

Child care is a community business. There are over 270,000 of Pennsylvania’s children in child care on any given day. Many of these children are from low income working families who are receiving child care subsidy assistance and benefit from Keystone STARS. It takes 4,200 child care centers, 850 group home providers, and 3,700 home based child care programs to care for them.  An estimated 58,000 people are employed in child care alone, not counting Head Start, Pre K Counts or Early Intervention.   We know that for every 6 children that come in to child care, 1 job is created.  Conversely for every 6 children eliminated from child care, 1 child care job is lost.

This budget stalemate is creating a child care crisis for care providers across the state. Many child care programs have budgets that are dependent upon receiving this state funding, such as state-subsidized child care and Pre-K Counts. Without it, we will see many child care programs closing.  Cuts to early education programs will be devastating to our industry and to Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate. Parents depend on quality early learning programs because it allows them to work, while preparing children to enter school ready to learn.  Early care and education programs provide businesses with a dependable and skilled workforce now and into the future.

“Our elected officials are looking in the wrong places and threatening programs that not only have proven long-term results but that also stimulate the economy in the present.” said Diana Dixon, Chair of the Pennsylvania Child Care Association’s board of directors.  “I hear from families everyday about how important it is to them to have good, reliable child care so they can continue to work. Cuts in funding to these programs, such as Child Care Works or Keystone STARS, could leave nearly 30,000 children on waiting lists for safe and reliable child care, forcing families to make hard decisions on working or collecting unemployment.”

When our young children receive quality early education, they can overcome risk factors that could hold them back and do better in school, graduate, go to college and get good jobs. They become productive members of society, become part of a qualified workforce and pay taxes. We need today’s children to succeed so they can generate tomorrow’s state revenues.

We need the Commonwealth’s commitment to investments in children and families. If we rely on a budget that cuts all early childhood education programs, we are only causing future economic harm to our state.  A responsible budget is one that does not cut and continues to invest in Child Care Works, Pre-K Counts, Keystone Stars and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, as proposed in the 2009-2010 Executive Budget.

Statement of the Early Care and Education Consortium (Washington, D.C.)

Early Care and Education Consortium members operate full-day, full-year child care and early learning programs to families of all income levels across Pennsylvania, and employ thousands of early educators.  Parents can’t work without child care, and in this economy parents need early education through child care to get and keep good jobs. Our state needs to put people back to work, not make it harder to get there. We are opposed to Senate Bill 850 and the cuts it imposes on these vital early childhood programs.  Governor Rendell’s difficult decision to reject these cuts and to stand for full funding for early childhood education has our support.

This budget stalemate threatens our economy, our businesses, our families, and the Commonwealth’s children.  If this budget stalemate continues, many early childhood programs across the state will lay off staff or close. Child care is a business and program funds from Child Care Works, Keystone Stars, PreK Counts and the Head Start Supplemental are needed to make business ends meet. Child Care Works subsidy payments to providers are delayed, reduced, or not happening at all.  Businesses cannot be expected to operate like this. And without child care fully operational, no other business in the state can function either.

Brightside Academy, an ECEC member, operates 38 locations in Pennsylvania which care for more than 4500 children each day. “Our families rely on Child Care Works funding to go to work and go to school,” says Sarah Horn of Brightside Academy. “Pennsylvania needs a budget that helps everyone, not just some. We need a budget that allows parents to work and children to grow. Brightside Academy can do our job of nurturing young minds only if the legislature passes a budget which puts our most valuable resource, children, first. We urge the General Assembly to put politics aside and enact a budget that fully funds these vital programs.”

“With school vacations ending and the regular school year starting, it is imperative that Pennsylvania enact a budget which fully addresses working families need for early childhood education and care so parents can work and children can learn,” says Shelly Duplin of KinderCare Learning Centers, another ECEC member with 95 centers in 21 counties, the Commonwealth’s largest private provider of high quality early childhood education and care.  “Pennsylvania’s serious economic problems will only get worse if the needs of working families are not addressed.  Our families know they can depend on KinderCare Learning Centers.  They need to know they can depend on the state for Child Care Works and Keystone STARS as well”.

Pennsylvania must end this budget stalemate and enact a budget that protects early childhood funding. These are investments that support our children, families and our economy.  A responsible budget is one that invests in Child Care Works, Pre-K Counts, Keystone Stars and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, as proposed in the 2009-2010 Executive Budget.  We are opposed to Senate Bill 850 since it cuts these early childhood education programs. We need a public investment to save and create jobs for early educators and support staff, help prepare children to enter school ready to succeed and ultimately become productive members of the future workforce, and enable their parents to work today. 

Statement of Public Citizens for Children and Youth (Southeastern region)

Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) urges the Pennsylvania General Assembly to act quickly to pass a budget that rejects cuts to Child Care Works in Senate Bill 850 and instead creates 3,700 additional slots in the program in FY 2009-2010.

Child Care Works helps low-income working families move toward financial independence by subsidizing the cost of child care. While the program enables parents to remain in the workforce, it develops school readiness skills in their children.

Since early in this decade the demand for Child Care Works has outpaced the availability of public funds. Within the past year the waiting list for Child Care Works has doubled, reaching an unprecedented high of 16,000 children.

In “Child Care Works: A Program with a Growing Need,” (June, 2009) PCCY reported that fewer than one half of all children who meet Pennsylvania’s income eligibility guidelines have access to Child Care Works. Upon learning that there is a waiting list, many parents chose not to enroll. Of those who do, families in at least 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s counties – rural, urban and suburban alike – face waiting times of six months to a year before receiving subsidy.

While they wait parents typically pursue one of three options according to Christie Balka, PCCY’s Director of Child Care and Budget Policy.

“They delay returning to the workforce and moving toward self-sufficiency; they place children in less-expensive care, which can pose a threat to their health and safety; or they cobble together a variety of unreliable child care arrangements, placing their own jobs at risk when these fall through,” Balka said. “For this reason Pennsylvania must use all the federal funds at its disposal to serve these families,” she added.

The Governor has proposed using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that were dedicated to this purpose to create 3,700 additional slots in Child Care Works. SB 850 would instead add 7,700 children to the waiting list for this program.

Child Care Works is part of a continuum of early childhood education services that the Commonwealth provides to eligible children and families. Others include Keystone Stars, a voluntary child care rating and improvement system; Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance, which provide high quality early education for pre-school children; Nurse Family Partnership and Early Intervention.

Statement of the Pennsylvania Head Start Association

The Pennsylvania Head Start Association (PHSA) is a statewide, non-profit organization actively involved in improving the lives of children and their families, particularly low-income families. PHSA is an advocacy organization for Head Start programs, families, staff and administrators in Pennsylvania. Head Start programs work to raise low income families out of poverty.  Head Start programs depend on all of Pennsylvania’s Early Childhood investments to be successful in helping families become economically self-sufficient. A healthy economy that is growing new jobs is necessary for the unemployed or under employed families in Pennsylvania to be able to get out of poverty.  In addition, many Head Start providers are also PA Pre K Counts providers, and child care providers.

Pennsylvania‘s early childhood investments support our economy. Drastic cuts to early learning programs so policymakers can balance a state budget will support neither our children nor Pennsylvania’s economy.  During this economic crisis Pennsylvania’s continued investment in Early Childhood makes sense economically for our short term and long term economic health.  Failure to invest now will create even greater challenges for Pennsylvania in the coming budget years.

We need the Commonwealth’s commitment to investments in children and families. If we fail to pass a budget that supports all early childhood education programs, we are causing future economic harm to our state.  A responsible budget is one that invests in Child Care Works, Pre-K Counts, Keystone Stars and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, as proposed in the 2009-2010 Executive Budget. 

The budget stalemate is creating a crisis for Head Start providers across the state. Many Head Start programs are dependent upon receiving state funding such as Head Start Supplement, state-subsidized child care and Pre-K Counts.  Most Head Start Supplemental programs and PA Pre K Counts programs are not opening this fall.  Other programs are opening drastically reduced programs.  The budget impasse is hurting both the families we serve and to Pennsylvania’s already struggling economy.
 
As Head Start parents enter the workforce they depend on quality early learning programs because it allows them to work, while preparing children to enter school ready to learn.  Early care and education programs provide businesses with a dependable and skilled workforce now and into the future. A further budget stalemate threatens our economy, our businesses, our families, and the Commonwealth’s children.  Head Start parents need quality child care for their children who are too young to be eligible for Head Start or PA Pre-K Counts.

Cuts in funding to funds to early learning programs, especially Child Care Works, could leave nearly 30,000 children on waiting lists for safe and reliable child care, forcing families to make hard decisions on working or collecting unemployment.  If families are not able to work this will create even more families competing for the already limited Head Start serves available for low income families. 

When our young children receive quality early education, they can overcome risk factors that could hold them back and do better in school, graduate, go to college and get good jobs. They become productive members of society, become part of a qualified workforce and pay taxes. We need today’s children to succeed so they can generate tomorrow’s state revenues.

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