2021-22 Budget Fails Children and Families with No Plan Forward
The 2021-22 state budget is hugely shortsighted and fails Pennsylvania children and families because instead of using billions of dollars to support services to build better futures for children, the funding will collect dust at a time when families need it the most.
Under the crush of the pandemic last year, the state passed a stopgap budget as a short-term solution. Several long-term solutions were proposed for the FY 2021-22 state budget but ultimately dissolved by final passage. We acknowledge the sensitivity around using the federal ARP funds for recurring costs and not spending them all at once. However, without a plan from the legislative majority or the administration, there are no assurances for families that this funding will be used to improve their lives in future budgets. We now find ourselves operating in a vacuum with no plan forward to lift children and families out of the health crisis definitively.
The FY 2021-22 Pennsylvania state budget is a $40.8 billion package that includes an injection of federal stimulus funds and represents a 29% increase over last year's largely level-funded spending plan passed during the pandemic. Legislative leaders, led by the Republican majority, have asserted that when federal stimulus funds are subtracted out and along with increased spending in the Department of Human Services budget (due to costs associated with the pandemic), the increase in spending equates to closer to 2.6%.
The budget also places more than $2.5 billion in increased state revenues in the state's rainy day fund. On top of the rainy day fund deposit, the budget plan calls for the state to hold on to more than $5 billion in unspent American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding for future budgets. Those dollars must be spent by various dates depending on the specific pot of funding, but in total must be expended by December 31, 2024.
Key investments (or lack thereof) in the General Appropriations bill (SB 255) include:
- $200 million increase in basic education funding for Pennsylvania's public schools, driven out through the basic education funding formula. An additional $100 million will go to the top 100 underfunded schools through the Level Up initiative. Approximately $28 million in the line item has been subtracted out to account for school district social security payments.
- No state increase in funding for the Career and Technical Education subsidy line, although $43.5 million in discretionary ARP funding is included through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds from the Department of Education, allocated to Career and Technical Centers for equipment purchases (see Fiscal Code comments below for more information).
- $50 million increase in special education funding, appropriately easing the burden of increased costs felt by local school districts.
- $30 million increase in high-quality pre-k: $25 million increase for Pre-K Counts and a $5 million increase for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program to serve more than 3,200 children.
- No state funding increase for child care line items in the budget (Child Care Services/Child Care Administration). The Start Strong PA campaign was not asking for an increase in state funds but rather was focused on the allocation of federal stimulus funding. As outlined in the Fiscal Code, ARP Child Care Stabilization Funds were allocated for the full $729 million appropriation (see Fiscal Code comments below).
- No state funding increase for voluntary, evidence-based home visiting through the Community-Based Family Centers line. The Nurse-Family Partnership line will receive a minimal increase to restore it to its prior level due to a slight reduction resulting from the state using enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding last year.
- $5.5 million increase in state funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). When federal FMAP is included in the calculation, this decreases the year over year figure due to children moving from CHIP to Medicaid (where they cannot be disenrolled until after the Public Health Emergency ends).
- No increase in funding for the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), which the federal government fully funds.
- Early Intervention Part C (serving 0-3-year-olds) received an increase of $22.18 million, while Part B (serving 3-5-year-olds) saw an increase of $11 million in state funds.
- $158.8 million increase in state funding for County Child Welfare – a 14% increase over last year's appropriation from the Needs-Based Budget – will not create new programs but will maintain existing ones.
Budget-related code bills also crossed the finish line, including:
- The School Code bill, SB 381, will affect children and families in the following ways:
- Postpones the Special Education Funding Commission to December 31, 2021
- Increases the Education Improvement Tax Credit by $40 million
- The Fiscal Code bill, HB 1348, does the following:
- Appropriates ARP ESSER funds in the following ways:
- $250 million for learning loss – federal law stipulated 20% of total ARP ESSER funding to be spent in this manner
- $50 million for summer enrichment – federal law dictated this set amount
- $50 million for after-school programs – federal law dictated this amount.
- Allocates $43.5 million for Career and Technical Education, which is prorated based upon each school's share of the state career and technical education subsidy.
- Appropriates $20 million for educational programs for neglected, delinquent, and at-risk youth and is prorated based upon the share of federal Title I, Part D funding.
- Sets parameters for the use of $729 million in ARP Child Care Stabilization funds in the following ways:
- Drives out funds according to previously set federal guidance, except for additional, one-time program funding allotted for providers serving infants and toddlers. This falls short of language sought by the Start Strong PA campaign, which aimed to add recommendations gleaned from a series of virtual forums across the state from providers, parents, and advocates on how to allocate the federal funds.
- The Fiscal Code only speaks to new programs; other federal ARP funds for existing programs are automatically appropriated, including:
- Child Care Discretionary Funding - $455 million
- Child Care Entitlement Funding - $18 million
- Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) funding for evidence-based home visiting - $1.3 million
- Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CB-CAP) - $8.7 million
- Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA) – $3.5 million
- Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) - $13.6 million specific to enhanced benefit package (there are additional funds nationally for modernization booked at $390 million)
- Appropriates ARP ESSER funds in the following ways:
The following bills we were tracking passed the House and Senate and will head to the Governor for his signature:
- House Bill 156 by Rep. Owlett – Amends the Tender Years Hearsay Act.
- House Bill 843 by Rep. Rowe – Adds any human trafficking offense to the list of criminal convictions of a party or member of a party's household that a court must consider before making a custody determination.
- House Bill 954 by Rep. Stephens – Amends the Criminal History Record Information Act to allow law enforcement agencies to share child abuse information.
- House Bill 1300 by Rep. Grove – PA Election Code overhaul, which the Governor will likely veto.
- Senate Bill 87 by Sen. Baker – Establishes a Task Force on Child Pornography.
- Senate Bill 664 by Sen. Corman – Provides for an optional year of repeated education due to COVID-19.
The following bills did not pass finally, and PPC will continue to track them moving into the fall session:
- Senate Resolution 144 by Sen. Aument – establishes the 2030 Commission on Education and Economic Competitiveness. The bill passed the Senate and is currently in the House Education Committee.
- Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Martin – Amends the School Code to reform charter school language and increases the Education Improvement Tax Credit. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee and awaits a vote on the Senate floor.
- Senate Bill 78 by Sen. Baker – Legislation referred to as “Kayden’s Law” focused on preventing child abuse in custody proceedings, passed the Senate and is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.
- Senate Bill 324 by Sen. Langerholc – Amends the School Code to assist students experiencing educational instability. The bill passed the Senate and is currently in the House Education Committee.
- Senate Bill 733 by Sen. J. Ward – Creates a voucher program for gifted students. The bill received second consideration in the Senate and was re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
- Senate Bill 735 by Sen. J. Ward – A constitutional amendment requiring identification to vote. Passed the Senate and is currently in the House State Government Committee.
- House Bill 1657 by Rep. M. Mackenzie – Expands the definition of child abuse to include allowing a child to be present where methamphetamine is being produced. The bill received second consideration on the House floor.
- House Bill 764 by Rep. B. Miller – Amends the Child Protective Services Law to allow employers to hire employees on a provisional basis, pending the completion of all submitted background checks. The bill passed the House and is currently in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
- House Bill 958 by Rep. Zimmerman – Creates a free-standing Act known as the Immunization Freedom Act. The bill was amended in the House Health Committee and is currently on the House tabled calendar.
- House Bill 1650 by Rep. Delozier – Reorganizes Title 67 (Kinship Care). The bill received second consideration on the House floor.