Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Phyllis says invest in kids

Mundy bolsters state aid for child care, early learning

HARRISBURG, June 11 State Rep. Phyllis Mundy successfully amended the proposed state budget last week to restore funding for early childhood education programs and subsidized child care for low-income, working families.

"Countless studies have proven over and over again the economic and social benefits of high-quality early childhood care and education," said Mundy, D-Luzerne. "These programs earn between seven to sixteen dollars for every dollar invested."

Mundy's amendment restores the Senate’s proposed cuts to Keystone STARS, an initiative that promotes quality in early childhood education programs. Keystone STARS provides grant awards to early learning programs for use in workforce development and retention, learning materials, and facility safety enhancements.

Mundy said her amendment also maintains the number of subsidized child care slots at the same level as this fiscal year. Luzerne County already has a waiting list of 118 for subsidized child care, a number which would grow under the Senate’s proposed cuts. Mundy said previous cuts to the program by the Ridge administration had negative consequences.

"Low-income working mothers had to quit their jobs and go on welfare because they could not afford child care," she said "Teen mothers had to drop out of school because they could no longer afford child care. Low-income parents want to work, but child care can be more than they can afford." 

Mundy’s amendment also reinstates the TEACH program, which offers scholarships for the continuing education of teachers who work with young, vulnerable children. The program was eliminated in last year’s budget.

"Revenue is available for these programs without raising any taxes, so there’s no excuse to not adequately fund them," Mundy said. "We have made a lot of progress in these investments over the past ten years. We can’t afford to backslide now."

Mundy’s amendment passed the House unanimously on Tuesday, but there is no guarantee it will remain in the final budget bill negotiated between the Republican House and Senate leaders and the Governor.

"Given the unanimous vote in support of early learning programs, I hope this funding is included in the final budget," Mundy said.

A final vote on the state budget is expected later this month.

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