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PPC Releases Policymaker Brief on UNC Pre-K Study

Since its enactment in 2007, Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts program has garnered wide bipartisan support to provide high-quality, publicly funded pre-k to eligible 3- and 4-year olds in the commonwealth. While a large body of national research has shown the range of benefits for children who attend a high-quality pre-k program, including higher graduation rates, reduced grade repetition, a stronger economy and a return on investment for taxpayer dollars, no analysis existed of Pennsylvania’s program - until recently.

In December, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill released a report including two studies looking exclusively at Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts program: Kindergarten Impacts of the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Program: A Statewide Evaluation and Implementation of the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Program: A Statewide Evaluation.

As a follow-up to the report, last week PPC released a policymaker brief summarizing the highlights of the findings. The Results Are In: Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts Program Makes a Big Difference also reviews recent research from across the country showing the benefits of pre-k and calls for frequent, independent reviews of the efficacy of the Pre-K Counts program – citing examples of other states that utilize this tactic to build legislative support of their own pre-k program.

Investments in high-quality, publicly funded pre-k have grown by $281 million in the Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program lines since 2007 – when the Pre-K Counts program was enacted. However, despite this support, 64% of eligible children in Pennsylvania DO NOT have access to this once-in-a- lifetime opportunity. That’s why it is important to support an investment of $30 million in the FY 2021-22 budget which will provide that opportunity to more than 3,200 additional children in the state.

Helping Moms and Children Thrive

In order for kids to thrive, moms need to thrive. Unfortunately, there are some alarming statistics about postpartum Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, and racial disparities in pregnancy-related deaths.

PPC is working to improve maternal health outcomes in Pennsylvania because no pregnant woman, postpartum mother or child in Pennsylvania should be without health insurance and the access to quality health care that is necessary for healthy birth outcomes, improved physical and mental health of a new mother and for a child’s healthy development into adolescence and through adulthood.

Watch or read President & CEO Kari King's statement about how the state can improve outcomes for pregnant and postpartum women and children.


Evidence-Based Home Visiting Models are Helping Families  

In February we shared a new Childhood Begins at Home video we helped produce about how the six evidence-based home visiting models operating in Pennsylvania improve the lives of the families who voluntarily receive services.

Now, you can see the distinct characteristics of each individual model and how they meet the unique needs of families voluntarily enrolled in the programs in two easy steps!

STEP 1: Use the map to see what models operate in your county (at least one operates in each of the 67 counties)

STEP 2: Watch the model video from the playlist to learn more about how home visitors are helping local families

Home visiting works, and these models have made a huge difference during the COVID-19 pandemic as home visitors have been vital in connecting pregnant women, children and families to physical and mental health services, managing family stress and accessing family economic supports.

Learn more about Childhood Begins at Home.


Early Learning PA Sends Letter Opposing Bill Capping State Spending to Legislative Leaders

This week PPC joined efforts with stakeholder partners in sending a letter under the umbrella of Early Learning PA and its three campaigns – Childhood Begins at Home, Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA – to urge caution in advancing HB 71 (Warner). The bill, which currently is awaiting further action on the House floor, would cap annual spending growth in the state budget to:

  1. The average of the change in the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) over the immediately preceding three calendar years, and
  2. The average percentage change in the state’s population during the immediately preceding three calendar years.

For reference, the CPI-U typically ranges from 1% to 2% in one year. Most of PPC’s priority appropriations would be greatly impacted by this policy change – which usually see growth above the arbitrary cap set by HB 71. Despite this, many of these areas also still see extremely high instances of unmet need.

HB 71 is structured as a state constitutional amendment – meaning that it will need to pass in two consecutive legislative sessions, but also that the governor does not sign the bill nor can he veto it. The bill may see activity on the House floor this week.

Read the Early Learning PA letter.


Uncertainty Abounds Regarding Statute of Limitations Window 

A bill amending the state’s constitution allowing voters to decide whether to open a two-year window to suspend the statute of limitations to bring civil actions for child sexual abuse will not appear on the electoral ballot this year, as originally intended, following a tumultuous week in the legislature. 

Earlier this year Department of State officials publicly indicated they failed to properly advertise the passage of the law last session, as required in statute. This occurred around the same time the General Assembly passed the same law for the second time this year – as required for a constitutional amendment. However, the failure to publicly advertise the first passage jeopardized the process for this spring’s May primary election where the measure was slated to be placed on the ballot before voters. At the time it was believed the process would need to start over again: meaning the bill that passed this year would serve as the first round required and a subsequent bill would need to pass again in the 2023-24 session before the measure could be placed on the ballot.

However, last week legislators began working on an emergency fix, HB 14 (Gregory), which would have allowed for the initiative to still be placed on the May 18 primary election ballot as initially planned. That bill was amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee with language addressing the two-year window but was met with considerable controversy due to the usage of emergency powers utilized in order to expedite the process and still place the measure on the ballot in time – eight weeks from today. Several members of the majority Republican party voted against passage of the bill and as of yesterday, Majority Leader in the Senate, Sen. Kim Ward (Westmoreland) indicated the chamber would not move forward in advancing the bill but would rather move its own piece of legislation – SB 8 (Baker) – which restarts the clock, and the process in placing the constitutional amendment measure on the ballot.


PDE, DHS Face Tough Senate Budget Hearings 

The Pennsylvania Senate budget hearings for Department of Education (PDE) and Department of Human Services (DHS) were held in the last two weeks. Department secretaries continued to defend the governor’s proposed budget and answered questions from senators on items within their departmental budget proposals. The DHS hearing featured multiple questions on the state of child care in Pennsylvania, including infusions of federal funding and whether those dollars will be used for one-time costs, the impact of child care on the economy as it relates to the pandemic and discussions around high quality child care. Chairman Pat Browne noted the recently passed American Rescue Plan’s $1.18 billion in funding for child care and stressed the importance of spending the funding in a sustainable manner. Sen. Tim Kearney asked DHS Secretary Teresa Miller about the lack of increased investments in evidence-based home visiting in the governor’s budget proposal. Secretary Miller noted limited state funding and pivoted to the department’s project in the Medicaid program. The Childhood Begins at Home campaign continues to advocate for an increase to expand home visiting to serve more pregnant women, children and families in the FY 2021-22 budget.

The hearing with PDE was heavily focused on the of impact COVID-19 on K-12 education, especially in terms of learning loss, return to in-person instruction and basic education funding. Multiple questions were asked on the governor’s proposal to move the current base amount of funding entirely through the Basic Education Funding Formula – a departure from the bipartisan agreement in the Basic Education Funding Commission from 2014-15 – as well as questions on funding for special education, charter schools and cyber charter schools. Senator Lindsay Williams noted the governor’s proposed increase of $30 million for pre-k programs, which both the Pre-K for PA campaign and PPC support. Senators Devlin Robinson and Dan Laughlin asked why the proposed budget did not include increased funding for career and technical education (CTE) after the governor has proposed increases in the past and his budget otherwise provides substantial support for education in other sectors. PPC is working with other stakeholder partners to advocate for $10 million in increased CTE funds in the FY 2021-22 budget.


House Children & Youth Committee Logs Busy Early Session 

The House Children & Youth Committee recently held two public hearings on topics relevant to PPC’s public policy agenda. The March 17th hearing covered the state’s implementation of the provisions of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act. The Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) Deputy Secretary Jon Rubin testified that the state would submit its plan before the October 1, 2021 deadline and that by receiving permission to delay implementation from July 1, 2021 to the October date, the department saved between $9 million - $12 million. Pennsylvania’s plan will meet prevention goals in part by certifying congregate care programs as specialized settings. Rubin also noted that the state has eight well-supported prevention models already operating, which is significant because at least 50% of the prevention programs used must be well-supported according to the federal law. PPC will continue to follow the state’s implementation of FFPSA and provide updates when necessary.

The other hearing focused on the status of child care in Pennsylvania and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector. Tracey Campanini, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) noted the state would use the $303 million in the December stimulus package with $87 million going to sustain increased base rates, $3 million to provide 5,000 additional pandemic awards ($600 grants awarded to about 33,000 child care workers already), and $212 million to support compliance with health and safety guidelines and to offset reduced enrollment for programs. This package of federal stimulus funding is distinct from the $1.18 billion expected from the recently passed American Rescue Plan that will be coming into the state moving forward. The Start Strong PA child care campaign is advocating that federal stimulus funds be invested wisely to strengthen the system as we move out of the pandemic and support working families.


2019 Public Charge Rule Permanently Blocked, Removing the Harmful Policy for Immigrant Families and Their Children 

As we have noted in prior newsletters, the 2019 “public charge” rule put in place an immigration wealth test, creating a “chilling effect” by discouraging many families with mixed immigration status of enrolling their eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP – as well as nutrition programs such as WIC and SNAP. There has been much legal activity surrounding the federal changes since it became effective last year, right before the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly after taking office, President Biden issued an Executive Order directing a review of the 2019 rule.

Last week, the 2019 rule was removed from the Federal Register, following the Biden Administration’s motions for the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss its appeals which was granted. The Department of Homeland Security statement can be found here.

PPC applauds this action, which was a necessary step to removing the confusion and fear caused by the 2019 rule among immigrant and mixed status families accessing essential health services.


In Case You Missed It...

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
200 North Third Street 13th Floor | Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101
(717) 236-5680 | info@papartnerships.org

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