Pennsylvania’s 2012-13 budget has several promising investments for children, despite falling short on child care funding and potentially overlooking the importance of evaluating all public school teachers, according to Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children President and CEO Joan Benso.
“On the whole, Pennsylvania’s children certainly fared better in the final budget plan compared to the spending plan initially proposed in February,” Benso said. “We saw investments in children improve during budget talks for two reasons: higher-than-expected state revenues and the demonstrated commitment of the General Assembly and the governor to make investing in our kids a higher priority.”
Among the bright spots in the final budget:
Unfortunately, Benso noted, the final budget reduces child care funding by more than $28 million overall for 2012-13 compared to the previous fiscal year.
“Child care funding helps ensure working families can afford high-quality child care, so parents can have the peace of mind knowing their children are in a safe, nurturing environment while they are at work,” Benso said. “As many families still struggle in a difficult economy – sometimes working multiple jobs to do so – quality child care is more important than ever. This cut takes us in the wrong direction.”
And while PPC advocated for the improved teacher evaluation system included in the final budget agreement, Benso said the omission of charter and cyber charter teachers from the new evaluation system is troubling, as it puts charter students at a disadvantage with their peers in other public schools. “These evaluations are meant to ensure every public school student benefits from an effective teacher, but for now, charter school students won’t have that assurance,” Benso said.
Charter school teachers were included in a previous version of the teacher evaluation measure, but they were removed from the evaluation process in a final school code bill. The state Department of Education, in a letter to lawmakers, claimed charter teachers did not need to be included in the evaluation system because it was the department’s “intent” to enact charter school reform measures that would include an evaluation system for charter teachers. That measure is still pending.
“We are heartened by the Corbett administration’s commitment to assure that charter school teachers eventually will benefit from the same meaningful evaluations that all other public school teachers receive,” Benso said. “It would be a loss for charter school students and parents if they did not have the same assurances - achieved through comparable accountability standards - that their teachers are as good as they can be.”
Benso said PPC, which helped move the teacher evaluation measure to the governor’s desk, will continue to work hard to ensure every public school student benefits from an effective classroom teacher.