2018-19 State Budget Recap: Investments in Kids Gets Top Priority
Days ahead of the June 30 deadline, legislators in Harrisburg have passed a state budget for FY 2018-19. Receiving wide bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, the $32.7 billion package was signed Friday evening by Gov. Wolf and makes several critical investments that will positively impact the Commonwealth’s 2.8 million children.
More specifically, the investments across PPC’s top policy priorities include an increase of $100 million for basic education funding driven out through the basic education funding formula, a $15 million increase for special education, and a total increase of $30 million for career and technical education. Those dollars will be allocated to both the base formula for career and technical education as well as an initiative to expand apprenticeship and industry partnerships in the Departments of Labor and Industry and Education.
On the early learning side, pre-k funding received a $25 million funding increase, with $20 million going to the Pre-K Counts Program and $5 million going to the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. Additionally, child care funding received just over a $6.7 million increase to address the Child Care Works waiting list.
Home visiting services also saw a substantial increase in funding, receiving an additional $6.7 million in state dollars. These funds will be used for training for child welfare, treatment and home visiting staff, and a long-overdue COLA for Nurse Family Partnership and Family Centers-Parents as Teachers programs. This important increase builds on the state’s past investment and expands resources to help 800 families suffering from the ravages of the opioid crisis to improve their capacity to raise their young children.
It is noteworthy that the overall spending increase for the budget is 1.7 percent in state funds. This makes the meaningful increases realized, particularly in areas such as home visiting (combined 33 percent state increase) and pre-k (combined 11 percent state increase), more laudable.
In addition to the budget bill, also referred to as the general appropriations bill, the legislature also passed accompanying school code, human services code and fiscal code bills. These bills historically serve as a guide on how to direct the appropriations contained in the budget, but also occasionally contain other policy matters. This year the codes largely stayed clear of policy debates with a few exceptions, including extending the moratorium for the Keystone exam graduation requirement to the 2020-21 school year (it was previously set to take effect for the 2019-20 school year) and prescribes details of a flexible grant program for school districts to address school safety concerns. The budget allocates $60 million (likely in the form of grants) for school safety initiatives.
The relatively early passage of the budget is a change in course when compared to the previous three state budgets, which all missed the June 30 deadline, in some instances by months. A positive turn in revenue coming into the state coupled with it being an election year helped make the negotiations progress more smoothly for FY 2018-19. The agreement also includes no new revenue streams to balance the budget.
The victories contained in the FY 2018-19 budget wouldn’t happen without you. We thank you, our partners, for working to ensure that kids remain the focus of policymakers as they put together the budget deal.