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Pennsylvania's children fared better in the final budget plan compared to the spending plan initially proposed in February.

Pennsylvania's New Budget Has Notable Wins For Kids, But Also Missed Opportunities

June 30, 2012

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:

  • It maintains $100 million in funding for Accountability Block Grants, which many school districts use to fund full-day kindergarten.
  • Funding for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance, both of which provide high-quality early learning opportunities to 3- and 4-year-olds, are maintained at $82.8 million and $37.3 million, respectively.
  • It includes the governor’s proposal for the full state implementation of the federal Fostering Connections law, which will provide stronger supports to older foster youth as they make the often difficult transition to adulthood.
  • It protects Keystone Exams as an important tool to measure student achievement in order to drive appropriate supports so every child achieves to our rigorous academic standards.
  • It creates a more substantive, useful system for evaluating most public school teachers, ensuring they receive the feedback and support needed to improve so their students can achieve.

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.

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Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children will not tolerate any comments containing derogatory, racist or hateful speech and has the right to delete - or refuse to post - any comments that violate this policy.

Michelle Wunder
  July 2, 2012 5:56pm

I applaud the contributions that this budget provides to Pennsylvania's children. However, the Governor and Legislature truly missed an opportunity to positively impact today's economy and Pennsylvania's future when they approved reductions to the state's child care budget.
Theresa Willer-Grinkewicz
  July 2, 2012 6:00pm

The most important investment that we can make for the future of all society is to provide a quality education for our youth!
  July 2, 2012 6:55pm

I suspect that charter and cyber charter teachers are NOT looking forward to the day they "...will benefit from the same meaningful evaluations that all other public school teachers receive" with this onerous, and as yet unvalidated, new evaluation system. One cannot help but be a bit suspicious as to just why they chose to subject only the regular public schools to what promises to be a very expensive and time-consuming evaluation process when budgets are already suffering so.