Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Effect of ARRA on Early Childhood Education in PA

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided funding for many important programs, including $2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant.  As the National Women's Law Center reports in a recent paper, states have chosen to use this money in a variety of ways.  States have used the money to maintain current assistance, to keep up with caseload growth, and to delay, reduce, or eliminate child care subsidy waiting lists. Some states have also used the funding to provide child care to parents who are searching for a job, to reduce parent copays, and to maintain or increase child care reimbursement rates.  Technology and quality improvement ratings are also recipients of funding across the country.

Why is child care funding so important? Quality early education gives children a better opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed in school and later in life, bringing economic benefits to their families and the community.  Access to a child care subsidy helps the economy in the short-term as well. Many low-income parents find themselves quitting a job due to child care responsibilities or being let go because of missed time. Low-income parents receiving child care subsidies are less likely to experience work disruptions than those who do not, helping parent not only reach but remain wage adequate.  At the national level, investment in child care subsidies has been shown to increase economic activity by $1.91 for each dollar spent in the subsidy program.

Here in Pennsylvania, we have used the funding to:
  • Work towards reducing the child care subsidy waiting list (along with 13 other states).  The report notes that Pennsylvania is putting $31.8 million to bringing down the waiting list, which stood at 6,000 children in January 2010.
  • Give tiered reimbursements under the Keystone Stars program (along with at least 15 other states using the funding for quality rating and improvement systems).  The report states that Pennsylvania has budgeted $3.7 million in FY 2009-2010 and $6.1 million in FY 2010-2011 for these reimbursements. 
  • Implement the Keystone Babies Pilot Program to offer infants and toddlers high quality child care and supportive services (along with at least 6 other states using funding to improve infant/toddler care).  Keystone Babies classrooms will be in three- and four-star Keystone Stars rated child care centers in eligible cities, and must meet additional quality and monitoring requirements.
image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelgoodin/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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