July 6, 2023

State Budget Fails to Significantly Invest in Early Care and Education Amid Historic Labor Shortage

The principal partners of Early Learning Pennsylvania (ELPA), a statewide coalition of advocates focused on supporting young Pennsylvanians from birth to age five, recently issued the following statements regarding House Bill 611, which still awaits the signature of the Senate President Pro Tempore and Governor to become the enacted 2023-24 Pennsylvania state budget.

ELPA operates four issue-based advocacy campaigns: Pre-K for PA, Start Strong PA, Childhood Begins at Home and Thriving PA.

First Budget in a Decade to Not Expand Pre-K Counts and State Funding for Head Start

“The Pre-K for PA campaign is deeply disappointed by the failure to expand the state’s publicly funded pre-k programs – PA Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. When nearly 90,000 eligible 3- and 4-year-olds do not have access to these once-in-a-lifetime early learning opportunities, and pre-k and Head Start programs can’t keep teachers in their classrooms because of inadequate reimbursement rates, this budget bill is simply unacceptable.

Public investment in high-quality pre-k has historically been a consensus issue in Pennsylvania; aligning political parties, rural, urban and suburban communities, and families across the commonwealth on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that improves the life chances of Pennsylvania’s children. In fact, a February 2023 Susquehanna Polling and Research poll showed that 98% of PA voters believe that early learning is important, and 78% of PA voters support increasing state funding to serve more eligible children in pre-k programs, which was an increase from 65% in 2022.

Unfortunately, HB 611 is a noticeable departure from a decade of growing investment in high-quality pre-k and threatens the stability of the early care and education sector and the futures of the 90,000 young children that lack access.”

With no new funding and all PA Pre-K Counts contracts up for renewal as part of a complete competitive rebid in FY 2023-24, Pre-K for PA urges the Shapiro Administration to maintain (to the greatest degree possible) the current per county slot allocation to ensure stability in access for our youngest learners.”

Budget Fails to Address Historic Labor Shortage & Furthers Impact on Working Families

“With a child care sector that is on the brink of collapse, the Start Strong PA Campaign is shocked by the lack of investment to address the child care teacher shortage in the state budget bill. Policymakers ignored calls from chambers of commerce, working parents, child care providers, military leaders and others to stabilize the sector by investing in child care wages. Failing to invest in the workforce, which supports all other sectors, will continue to harm the commonwealth’s children, working families and the overall economy.

HB 611 currently allocates slightly more than $100 million in new state funding to maintain the status quo in the child care system. This includes supporting the current child care subsidy caseload and utilization, as well as maintaining the increase in subsidy rates as one-time federal funding lapses. While maintaining the 60th percentile of market rates is important to help alleviate inflationary pressures on child care providers, it has not stabilized the child care workforce. This maintenance of effort of the subsidy system is simply woefully inadequate given the scale of the commonwealth’s child care crisis.

Across Pennsylvania, child care providers are closing classrooms and entire programs due to this historic child care teacher shortage. According to a February 2023 Start Strong PA survey of more than 1,000 child care providers across the state, 85% of responding providers had open and unfilled positions amounting to more than 3,600 open staff positions resulting in 1,500 closed classrooms, and a combined waitlist of more than 35,000 children.

Low wages within the child care sector are driving this staffing shortage. The average wage of a Pennsylvania child care teacher is less than $12.50/hour. At this earning potential, 21 percent of the child care workforce relies upon Medicaid for their health care coverage and SNAP to put food on the table. There is no county in the commonwealth where this wage covers the cost of living.

For families with young children, access to child care is a critical factor in their ability to go to work and ensure their children are in a safe and nurturing environment. Nearly 70 percent of all households with children younger than age 6 have all available caregivers in the workforce—that’s over 537,000 households.

For all other business sectors, the child care sector is the workforce behind the workforce. When families can’t get child care, their children suffer, their income drops and the state’s economy is shortchanged. In a time of severe labor shortages and billions in state budget surplus, the commonwealth’s failure to ensure parents have access to child care is a tragic outcome.

For all Pennsylvanians, when businesses aren’t fully staffed, or staff are unreliable due to lack of child care, they cannot produce goods or provide services, creating shortages and increasing prices. So, whether one has young children or not, Pennsylvania’s child care crisis should matter to all of us.”

Infant and Toddler Early Intervention and Maternal Health Increases Included in Budget

“The budget bill also contains an increase of $15.4 million for Infant and Toddler (Part C) Early Intervention in the Department of Human Services budget. This is short of Governor Shapiro’s March budget proposal, which called for a $20.2 million increase. While the additional $15.4 million will serve more children and sustain a rate increase initially achieved through one-time federal stimulus funding, Thriving PA is disappointed more was not done to support the Early Intervention system holistically. This includes solutions to address workforce shortages needed to create a viable and sustained service delivery platform.

Additionally, Preschool (Part B) Early Intervention received a $10.4 million increase in the Department of Education budget, which was what Governor Shapiro included in his March request.

A $2.3 million increase in the Department of Health budget was included in HB 611 in order to implement recommendations included in the Maternal Mortality Review Commission report. Thriving PA appreciates support for these funds, which will help address maternal mortality and morbidity in Pennsylvania.”


House Bill 611, which is not yet the enacted 2023-24 Pennsylvania state budget, includes:

  • Level funding for the state’s Pre-K Counts program.
  • Level funding for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program.
  • Increase of $103,747,000 to maintain the status quo in the child care subsidy program (increases of $13,370,000 million for the state
  • Child Care Assistance line item and $90,377,000 million for the Child Care Services line item).
  • Level-funding for evidence-based home visiting in the Community-Based Family Center line item and $25,000 for the Nurse-Family
  • Partnership line item, which is a technical adjustment from previously enhanced federal matching funds.
  • $15.4 million for the Early Intervention Part C (infants and toddlers) program through DHS.
  • $10.4 million for the Early Intervention Part B (age-three-to-five) program through PDE.

Start Strong PA Message to Early Care and Education Professionals, Families, and Advocates

Early Care and Education Professionals, Families, and Advocates:

You raised your voices time and time again. Our data was strong and compelling, but policymakers have ignored calls from working parents, child care providers, chambers of commerce, military leaders, and others urging investment in child care wages to stabilize the workforce.

We feel your frustration and will soon give you an efficient way of communicating with your elected officials about how our child care crisis continues to impact you, your program, the families you serve, and our communities at large.

Learn More

To learn more, visit the websites for any of the ELPA campaigns:


Information for this post was taken directly from the Pre-K for PA press release. Some text may have been added, paraphrased, or adapted for readability and comprehension.

Related Content & Resources


February 22, 2023

ELPA Poll Shows Strong Support for Investments into Early Childhood

A new poll, commissioned by the Early Learning PA Coalition and conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research from February 1 – 7, 2023, found that 98% of PA voters believe that early childhood education is important. The poll also showed strong voter support for increased investment for early care and education programs like pre-k, high-quality child care and home visiting services.

There has been significant growth in voter’s overall support from a June 2022 poll, where 90% of voters said they found early childhood education to be important.

Poll Details

Partners of the Early Learning PA Coalition released the new polling data on voter support for early childhood care and education programs during a press conference held on Tuesday, February, 21, 2023 at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg, PA.

According to the poll:

  • 78% of PA voters support increasing state funding to serve more eligible children in pre-k programs, which is an increase from 65% in 2022;
  • 78% of PA voters also support increasing state funding to help more low-income working families afford high-quality child care, up from 67% in 2022;
  • 68% of PA voters support increasing state funding to provide voluntary home visiting services to eligible families , up from 60% in 2022; and
  • 81% of PA voters favor allocating state funding to increase wages of child care workers.

“As we start budget season here in Harrisburg, the partners of the Early Learning PA Coalition urge Governor Shapiro and all members of the General Assembly to respond to this level of voter support for growing the Commonwealth’s investments in early care and education,” said Kristen Rotz, President of the United Way of Pennsylvania and principal partner in the Early Learning PA Coalition. “Pennsylvania must make these programs more accessible to children and families that qualify and further stabilize and strengthen the system by addressing historic teacher shortages caused by low wages.” said Rotz.

Visit the Pre-K for PA Facebook page to watch the February 21, 2023 press conference in full.


June 28, 2021

Early Learning Pennsylvania Response to 2021-22 State Budget

The principal partners of Early Learning Pennsylvania (ELPA), a statewide coalition of advocates focused on supporting young Pennsylvanians from birth to age five, believes the Commonwealth’s economic recovery hinges on helping working families by prioritizing greater state investments in high-quality pre-k, child care and evidence-based home visiting. ELPA operates four issue-based advocacy campaigns: Pre-K for PA, Start Strong PA, Childhood Begins at Home, and Thriving PA. Reaction statements from three of these campaigns regarding the FY 2021-22 state budget follow:


“Pre-K for PA applauds the $25 million in new state funding for Pre-K Counts and $5 million for Head Start Supplemental Assistance as part of the 2021-22 PA State Budget. This funding continues the commonwealth’s tradition of expanding access to high-quality pre-k – providing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to more than 3,200 additional young learners. 

“Research shows that high-quality pre-k benefits children’s cognitive, social and emotional development. A new study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill confirmed that the commonwealth’s investment in pre-k pays dividends for the children fortunate enough to access pre-k through the Pre-K Counts program. In language and math skills, the study showed that these kids outperformed their kindergarten peers who did not enjoy access—an advantage that equated to four to five months of learning gains. Even with this budget increase, more than 100,000 eligible three- and four-year-olds still lack access to high-quality pre-k.”

Child Care

“The General Assembly and the Wolf Administration unfortunately missed the opportunity to prioritize families who are struggling to return to work. Ignoring recommendations developed with input from over 1,000 child care providers and parents, Pennsylvania’s elected leadership has fallen significantly short on ensuring American Rescue Plan child care funds are used to help families find and afford high-quality child care and to stabilize the industry.

“Given that 70% of Pennsylvania children under the age of five had all adults in their household in the labor force prior to the pandemic, high-quality child care is an essential workforce support. That workforce must be able to return to work for Pennsylvania to recover from the pandemic’s economic devastation.  

“We now call on the Wolf Administration to prioritize and implement our recommendations for Pennsylvania’s $1.2 billion in American Rescue Plan child care funding. With nearly 700 child care programs permanently closed and over 350 temporarily closed, families are struggling to find child care. Those child care providers that have managed to stay open are still incurring additional pandemic-related costs while operating significantly under capacity and are struggling to attract and retain teachers.

“Not only is there less child care capacity in the system, only 42% of certified child care capacity currently meets high-quality standards. And only 39% of infants and toddlers that receive subsidized care attend programs that have met high-quality standards. High-quality care and education mean safer, healthier children and are critical to maximizing the period of a child’s most rapid brain growth. 

 “Start Strong PA’s recommendations for American Rescue Plan child care funding will stabilize, strengthen and ultimately secure the child care industry. This industry is critical to the success of our economic recovery.”

Evidence-Based Home Visiting

“On behalf of the pregnant women, children, and families who would benefit the most from evidence-based home visiting – especially those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic – Childhood Begins at Home is dismayed that there is no increase in the state budget for these voluntary services backed by decades of research.

“Without funding increases to reach more Pennsylvania families, the unmet need remains at a staggering 95%. The Community-Based Family Centers line will be level-funded, and the Nurse-Family Partnership line will receive a minimal increase to restore the line to its prior level due to a slight reduction resulting from the state using enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding last year.

“Throughout budget negotiations, policymakers emphasized the infusion of federal stimulus dollars to inform state spending decisions. Of the total amount of one-time state funds Pennsylvania received from the American Rescue Plan ($7.3 billion), home visiting gets less than .02% (or a paltry $1.3 million) through the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. This funding has yet to be distributed to programs that received no aid during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is limited in its use and timeframe to spend these dollars.

“Only pennies on the dollar for evidence-based home visiting are coming in federally. It adds insult to injury that policymakers in the legislative and administrative branches did not step up and recognize constituents would benefit from the same services that have been a lifeline for so many during the last 15 months.  

“While states’ use of the ARP funds is flexible, the federal stimulus funding for evidence-based home visiting would not even reach one family in each of Pennsylvania’s 253 legislative districts.

“From birth to age five, brain growth is rapid, learning is happening, and our coalition of advocates is committed to ensuring that families can access it in high-quality, developmentally appropriate settings. In Pennsylvania, funding has not been prioritized to ensure the resources are there to offer these irreplaceable opportunities, creating deep inequity among children and their families at a very early age. We, and our tens of thousands of supporters, will continue to urge lawmakers to invest in early learning boldly – it is an urgent necessity.”

About Early Learning Pennsylvania Initiatives

Pre-K for PA launched in 2014 with the vision that every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania will have access to high-quality pre-k. Learn more on the Pre-K for PA website.

 Start Strong PA launched in 2019 to support healthy child development, working families, and the economy by increasing access to and affordability of high-quality child care programs for young children. Learn more on the Start Strong PA website

Childhood Begins At Home is a statewide campaign to help policymakers and the public understand the value of evidence-based home visiting and support public investments in the programs.  Learn more on the Childhood Begins at Home website


February 4, 2021

2021-22 Pennsylvania Budget Proposal Response

On February 3, during his 2021-22 budget proposal address, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf put an emphasis on Pennsylvania families.

As a member of Early Learning Pennsylvania (ELPA), a statewide coalition of advocates focused on supporting young Pennsylvanians from birth to age five, Trying Together commends the governor’s continued commitment to growing state funding for pre-k. However, additional effort is needed to boost the availability of quality child care and home visiting services that are essential to Pennsylvania’s working families and our economic recovery.

ELPA operates three issue-based advocacy campaigns: Pre-K for PA, Start Strong PA, and Childhood Begins at Home.

Governor Wolf’s state budget proposal included:


  • $25 million in additional funding for the state’s Pre-K Counts program.
  • $5 million in additional funding for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. Together, this $30 million expansion would serve approximately 3,270 additional young children. Currently, more than 106,000 eligible three- and four-year-old children do not have access to high-quality publicly funded pre-k programs.

In a press release, ELPA states, “During a difficult budget year, Governor Wolf deserves credit for his continued support of expanded access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k in PA. The $30 million funding increase for these programs in the proposed 2021-22 PA budget ($25 million for Pre-K Counts; $5 million for Head Start State Supplemental Assistance Program) continues the tradition of expanding this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to thousands more three- and four-year-olds.

“A new study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill confirmed that the Commonwealth’s investment in pre-k is paying dividends for the children fortunate enough to access pre-k through Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts program. In language and math skills, the study showed that these kids outperformed their kindergarten peers who did not enjoy access – an advantage that equated to four to five months of learning gains, which is a substantial difference in development at that age and a meaningful advantage during the COVID-19 era.”

Child Care

  • $87 million in existing federal child care funds to increase child care base rates.

Base rates for CCW reimbursements will be increased to the 40th percentile of the market rate for child care in the provider’s region, up from approximately the 25th percentile where most of Pennsylvania’s child care providers currently sit. This change brings Pennsylvania closer to the federal government’s recommendation of reimbursing at the 75th percentile.

Trying Together and the ELPA campaigns commend the Wolf administration for this proposed change, however, the child care industry needs an additional boost.

“Pennsylvania’s working families struggled to find and afford high-quality child care prior to the pandemic. Today’s economic downturn has only exacerbated this problem,” the ELPA press release states. “Start Strong PA urges Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to address these child care needs by quickly utilizing federal funds to serve 3,000 additional eligible infants and toddlers in high-quality slots through contracts, which provides greater financial stability to providers.”

Evidence-based Home Visiting

  • Level funding for home visiting.

The current public health crisis, isolation, stress, and unemployment have made home visiting more essential than ever. Trying Together and the ELPA campaigns hope to work collaboratively with the administration and legislature to expand evidence-based home visiting services to match that commitment with the resources to make it a reality.

We will advocate for these investments as the budget process continues. Stay up-to-date on how to advocate for these issues by signing-up to support Trying Together’s public policy agenda.



September 22, 2020

ECE Advocacy 101

Are you interested in learning how to use your experience and knowledge to advocate for early childhood? Join Trying Together on October 6 for our free virtual workshop, “ECE Advocacy 101.”


The ECE Advocacy 101 workshop is designed to break down the Pennsylvania budget cycle. Participants will receive an overview of the Early Learning PA (ELPA) campaigns, how Early Childhood Education programs are impacted by the budget process, and ways professionals and families can use their experience and knowledge to advocate. Participants will leave with foundational knowledge of the Pennsylvania budget, ELPA campaigns, and various advocacy actions they participate in or lead.

Session Details

    • Session Date: Tuesday, October 6, 2020  |  1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
    • Instructors: Cristina Codario, Emily Neff, and Lindsey Ramsey
    • Core Knowledge Area: Professional and Leadership
    • CDA Content Area: Maintaining Professionalism
    • Registration Deadline: Sunday, October 4, 2020


To register, visit the course PD Registry page. Space is limited. Participants will receive the course Zoom link via email within 24 hours before the start date for the course. PQAS and Act 48 credit available.

If you do not have a PD Registry account, please complete this online form to create one. If you are unable to create an account, please contact Jasmine Davis at for more information.

More Information

For questions or more information, contact Jasmine Davis at


April 9, 2019

Month of the Young Child: Celebrating Early Childhood

With Trying Together having designated April as the Month of the Young Child (MOYC), Kidsburgh asked Executive Director Cara Ciminillo to explain why access to high-quality early childhood care and education is so vital for our youngest generation.


In the article, Ciminillo explains why access to early learning and care is critical and moves on to discuss the roles of advocacy, policy, and investments. Identifying connections to Trying Together’s public policy agenda, Ciminillo explains that by successfully advocating for increased investments in early childhood, we’re working to ensure that all young children have access to affordable, high-quality programs; that all early childhood professionals are being compensated appropriately; and that all early childhood programs have access to the support they need to provide high-quality services.


To read the full article, visit Kidsburgh’s website!


March 27, 2019

No Small Matter Screening

Join co-hosts Trying Together and PUMP for a screening of “No Small Matter,” a documentary film that highlights the importance of high-quality early education and its impact on all Americans.


  • 6:00 – 6:30 p.m. | Dinner*
  • 6:30 – 7:15 p.m. | Screening
  • 7:15 – 7:45 p.m. | Panel Discussion
  • 7:45 – 8:00 p.m. | Action Item/Wrap-Up

*A light dinner will be provided.

Share this flyer with your network.


Free child care will be available for children ages two to eight. Pre-registration is required for child care and space is limited. To register for child care, visit Sweet Dreams Child Care’s registration link​.



About No Small Matter

No Small Matter is the first feature documentary to explore the most overlooked, underestimated, and powerful force for good in America today: early childhood education. Through poignant stories and surprising humor, the film lays out the overwhelming evidence for the importance of the first five years, and reveals how our failure to act on that evidence has resulted in an everyday crisis for American families, and a slow-motion catastrophe for the country.