KYW: PA Lawmakers Wrangle Over Budget, Some Education Programs in Limbo

October 27, 2015 By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania lawmakers have spent months wrangling over the budget and the impact of the impasse is being felt statewide. The stalemate could have long-term effects on some of the state’s most vulnerable.

“We are continuing to be very hopeful that the budget will pass,” says Kathleen Brown McHale.

Hope is a word she clings to these days. McHale is president of SPIN, a non-profit that provides disability services and early childhood education to about 3200 people statewide. The group invested $400,000 over the summer renovating a new state-of-the-art Pre-K facility on Dunks Ferry Road. With six classrooms, its purpose is to serve 100 children in an area of the Northeast in need of early childcare services. Their efforts are on schedule– SPIN has purchased desks and chairs and books and toys. They’ve even hired teachers, but there’s no funds to pay them. SPIN’s newest facility is dependent on a budget proposal that allots $120 million additional state tax dollars for Pre-K and Headstart. Because SPIN’s facility is new and the budget is still up in the air, McHale says they have no choice but to keep their doors shuttered.

“Here we are at the end of October, we’re all ready to go,” says McHale, “but the children aren’t here.”

It’s not because there are no children. SPIN has signed up dozens of families, but they must wait until the budget in Harrisburg is passed by the legislature. In the meantime, SPIN’s older programs are struggling as well. McHale says they’re paying teachers and keeping the lights on thanks to a line of credit.

“It’s very, very tight,” she says. “It’s hurting us. We didn’t have much money before- but now, it’s getting worse.”

McHale claims they’re losing $35,000 a month and it’s unclear how they’ll close the gap if the stalemate continues. In the meantime they’ll keep going, but it’s a luxury some smaller facilities just don’t have.

“Some of the smaller facilities are asking their teachers to work for no pay, others are considering closing and still others are taking on low-interest loans,” says Kate Phillips, spokesperson for Pre-K for PA Coalition. “There could be long-term impact in terms of quality.”

Phillips says some facilities may be forced to cut corners as funding options dwindle. For families on the outside, the wait is difficult.

Read the full article here.

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