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Lawmakers unite to prioritize children in difficult budget year

The 2017-18 state budget passed by the Senate this morning and headed to the House demonstrates a bi-partisan compromise that prioritizes children. Following the governor’s lead set in his budget request, Democrats and Republicans came together and prioritized the state’s 2.8 million children by increasing state investments in child welfare, early learning and K-12 education.

“Despite the economic challenges facing the state, policymakers have demonstrated a strong commitment to ensuring children can reach their full potential, and to making Pennsylvania one of the top 10 states to be a child and to raise a child,” Benso said. “We have much to celebrate this Fourth of July because children were made a top priority in this budget.

“This budget increases funding for pre-k by $30 million – but lawmakers also realized that young learners have important needs earlier than preschool – so they developed a home visiting initiative, appropriating nearly $5 million to help parents in their role as their children’s first teachers. Evidence-based home visiting improves health outcomes, reduces child abuse and enhances early learning. But they didn’t stop there. Lawmakers recognized the challenges created in the FY 2016-17 budget and restored the $20 million cut that was made to child care services.

“Education is always a priority and positive progress has been made in recent years. This budget expands our commitment to basic education with a $100 million increase and adds $25 million in critical resources to special education. We thank the governor and legislators from both sides of the aisle for recognizing the importance of investing in early learning and K-12 education and look forward to building on these investments in the future to ensure every child in Pennsylvania has the opportunities they deserve,” said Benso.

Benso noted the budget clearly acknowledges other challenges facing children and families at-risk and the most vulnerable among us who experience the child welfare system where funding also increased. The budget assumes our continued federal partnership to insure more than 40 percent of the commonwealth’s children who receive their coverage through the CHIP and Medicaid programs.

“As we celebrate our independence, Pennsylvanians should be proud of their policymakers from both sides of the aisle who joined together to renew their commitment to building our great Union by investing in our children,” she said.

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