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April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is an opportunity for child advocates to increase public awareness and community action for child abuse prevention.

In 2020, there were over 32,000 reports of child abuse—14% were substantiated or found to be true. Physical and sexual abuse continues to be the leading forms of substantiated abuse. One way to prevent child maltreatment is to strengthen protective factors in parents and caregivers by building knowledge and skill and investing in a community system that provides services that reduce life stressors. Over 187,000 children and families were provided with supportive services through the child welfare system in 2020 to mitigate risk and safety and to promote families staying together.

Throughout April, engage with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — we’ll highlight data and resources promoting child abuse prevention. Learn more about efforts to reduce child maltreatment in PA and other policy solutions in our 2021 State of Child Welfare report, and register for a free Spotlight Speaker Series webinar hosted by the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance on topics related to child abuse prevention.


IRRC Approves PDE Proposed Charter Regulations

Last week, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission held a voting meeting—and approved— PDE's final form, Regulation #6-349, updating components of the state’s charter law, which has not been amended since its enactment in 1997 despite numerous attempts in the Legislature over the past several sessions.

The regulations will address the following for both brick-and-mortar and cyber charters:

  • Provide clear application requirements for entities seeking to open charter or cyber charter schools.
  • Ensure that all Pennsylvania students can access charter schools.
  • Clarify the ethics requirements for charter and cyber charter school trustees.
  • Require school districts and charter schools to follow the same fiscal management and auditing standards.
  • Streamline the process for charter schools to request tuition payments from school districts and the state.
  • Provide a consistent, common-sense method for charter schools to meet state law employee health care requirements.

Before the meeting, the House and Senate Education Committees sent opposition letters and expressed frustration at bypassing the legislative process, despite the issue being at an impasse for years in the General Assembly. The letters ultimately did not affect the outcome: it passed along party lines, with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans opposing the regulations.

While not all-encompassing of issues that need attention, the regulatory amendments are a step that PDE can take in updating cyber and charter school processes before a new administration is elected later this year. PPC submitted comments supporting the proposal last fall while the regulation was in draft form. Despite the approval of the regulation by IRRC, it is likely the Legislature will continue a process of further, politically charged changes to the law soon.


Education Committees Stay Busy During Condensed Candidate Petition Period

The House and Senate canceled session days last week and this week due to a state Supreme Court decision finalizing the new maps for House and Senate districts and confirmed a condensed timeline for candidates to collect signatures. You’ll recall the new maps underwent legal challenges and mandatory waiting periods to collect citizen feedback—this caused the petition-signing period timeline to shrink to only ten days – and eat into planned session days at the end of this month.  

Despite the rushed electoral timeline, the House Education Committee held two hearings of significance recently:

  • A public hearing on teacher shortages—educators and school officials testified about increased stress, low pay, and additional duties caused by mandates.
  • Last week, there was a hearing on cyber charter schools, where PDE Deputy Secretary Dr. Sherri Smith and Special Assistant to the Education Secretary Adam Schott testified on cyber charter outcomes and the charter renewal process handled by the department.

Activity slated for this week includes a House Education Committee voting meeting on HB 2169, which is the latest iteration of voucher legislation making the rounds in the capitol. PPC signed on to a letter opposing the legislation with numerous other education groups. The committee is also considering HB 972, dubbed the “Protect Women’s Sports Act,” which aims to prevent transgender individuals from competing in sports in the sex in which they identify. PPC is reviewing the legislation.

The House did make yesterday a non-voting day, causing the cancellation of a proposed House Children & Youth Committee meeting to consider HB 1866 and HB 2400. PPC is pushing for enactment of HB 1866, which would codify steps for county child welfare agencies to assist older youth in achieving permanency and a successful transition to adulthood. PPC also signed on to a letter opposing HB 2400, a bill that has been introduced for several years and prescribes how child care facilities can publicly display their Keystone STAR level (which is already largely done) but adds new language this session that would allow providers to use work experience in lieu of formal education credentials to move up a Keystone STAR-level. PPC and other early care and education groups voiced concern over this specific provision and its impact on the practice and perception of high-quality early education. PPC believes high-quality programs should require staff and administrators to have the appropriate professional credentials and education.

After this week’s activity, the Senate will return to session the weeks of April 4th and 11th, with the House scheduled to join the latter week. The House will also be in session the week of April 25th. Those are the only session weeks planned before the primary election scheduled for May 17th.


U.S. House Subcommittee Hears Testimony on Benefits of Home Visiting

Last week the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Worker and Family Support held a hearing on improving family outcomes through home visiting. The hearing was the first step in reauthorizing the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) by its September 30th deadline.

Both Committee Chair Danny Davis (D-IL) and Ranking Member Jackie Walorski (R-IN) expressed support for home visiting and the success of home visiting programs for young children and families.

Many experts testified about the vital role home visiting plays within the early childhood care and education continuum, perinatal and child health, and child welfare. Also highlighted was the flexibility of MIECHV programs and their ability to provide the right kind of programming for the families they serve. Because home visitors provide evidence-based services to children and families in their own homes, they are trusted sources for vulnerable families.

Political gridlock led to the MIECHV program lapsing in 2017 until the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

PPC and its partners in the Childhood Begins at Home campaign want to avoid a repeat of program disruption, and any home visitor turnover or erosion of trust families have in home visiting programs. Accordingly, we are already working with our colleagues to continue educational efforts with our congressional delegation to build support for reauthorization and additional federal funding for these programs.

MIECHV has also been flat funded for several years at $400 million annually for all states, territories, and tribal regions. Due to sequestration, that number is lower (closer to $340 million), and fewer funds to states are sent out every year the program is flat-funded. The National Home Visiting Coalition is calling on Congress to increase MIECHV funding by $200 million each year over the next five years to total $1.4 billion annually, double the tribal set-aside amount, and allow the continuation of virtual home visiting. PPC signed a letter to Congress urging it to support the coalition's priorities in MIECHV reauthorization.


Thriving PA Spotlight: Children's Health Insurance

Thriving PA's policy priorities include ensuring Pennsylvania's children have a healthy start and be insured as early as possible.

Watch the campaign's latest video about children’s health insurance—by age 3; children should have 12 well-child visits according to the schedule set by the American Academy of Pediatrics. These regular, preventive visits to the doctor or pediatrician are essential for tracking a child’s growth and development, providing immunizations, and identifying and addressing delays or concerns.

Learn more at ThrivingPA.org, and follow the campaign on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

On March 17, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 5-year estimate data from the 2016–2020 American Community Survey. The release of this data is helpful especially because pandemic-related disruptions prevented the release of 1-year 2020 estimates in September 2021. The Census Bureau has since revised its methodology to reduce nonresponse bias in data collected in 2020 and determined the standard, full suite of 2016–2020 ACS 5-year data are fit for public release.


In Case You Missed It...

  • Last week's virtual conversation, "Optimizing Family Health Through WIC Modernization," co-hosted by CHOP PolicyLab and Thriving PA, focused on modernizing the WIC program and increasing participation across the state. Listen to the full recording.
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation, in conjunction with Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, released its 20th annual survey of states’ Medicaid and CHIP programs. This year’s survey focuses on states’ plans for unwinding the public health emergency, a date yet to be determined. PPC is working with stakeholders to encourage DHS to use as much time and resources as allowable to plan for the behemoth task ahead to help ensure eligible children and their families remain connected to health care.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
200 North Third Street 13th Floor
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101
(717) 236-5680

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