Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) released a statement today regarding the agreement reached on the 2011-12 state budget, including the restoration of $100 million to the Accountability Block Grant (ABG) that funds two out of every three children attending full-day kindergarten programs in public schools in Pennsylvania.
“We are grateful the final budget agreement includes partial restoration of the Accountability Block Grant. We are very pleased the governor joined legislative leaders in supporting this critical investment to improve the early learning and later academic progress of Pennsylvania’s students. The vast majority of ABG funds have been used to support pre-K and full-day kindergarten – key early learning strategies,” said Joan L. Benso, president and CEO, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. “It is essential for the governor and legislative leaders not only to appropriate the $100 million for the 2011-12 Accountability Block Grant with reserve funds from the current fiscal year, but to make certain that school districts have the authority to spend this funding. In addition, ABG funds should continue to only be available for evidence-based strategies such as full-day kindergarten. This consensus demonstrates a shared commitment to early childhood education - including full-day kindergarten - which we expect to continue for many academic years to come.”
The budget deal represents one of shared sacrifice and children were not spared taking on part of the burden in these difficult economic times. Cuts were made to other key children’s programs such as county child welfare and child care, which will include increases in co-pays for low-income parents with children enrolled in the child care subsidy program in the new fiscal year. “We were very concerned that efforts to increase ABG funding were focused on making severe cuts to other early learning programs such as Pre-K Counts to pay for it,” noted Benso. “We thank the governor and budget negotiators for their leadership in averting efforts to significantly reduce funding for one very successful education program for four-year-olds in order to fund another critical education initiative for five-year-olds.”
The budget proposal takes modest steps to restore funding cuts to basic education that occurred from the expiration of federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, but falls short in assuring that school districts have adequate and equitable resources to educate every child. “While some restorations to basic and higher education funding cuts were realized, they aren’t enough to ensure that all Pennsylvania children can attend public schools that have adequate resources to educate them to our state’s rigorous academic standards and continue the promise that high school graduates can afford to attend postsecondary education to prepare for the workforce,” Benso went on to say.
“Certainly the governor and House and Senate Republican leadership did what they thought was best for children in the Commonwealth but with reported revenue growth, more surplus funds should have been used to avert cuts to children’s programs,” Benso added. “We should now focus on making the 2012-2013 budget one that more fully addresses the comprehensive needs of children and youth. There is much more work to be done to ensure children have the opportunities they need to grow up healthy, well educated and ready for the next stage of their lives.”
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