Philly Voice: Pennsylvania budget battle threatens to close pre-K programs

Layoffs begin to affect state services as impasse nears fifth month

BY MICHAEL TANENBAUM
PhillyVoice Staff

As Pennsylvania’s budget stalemate nears the 5-month mark, state-subsidized pre-kindergarten programs across the Commonwealth are in danger of shutting down, school advocates said Friday.

A spokeswoman for the coalition Pre-K for PA, Kate Phillips, told the Associated Press that organizations responsible for educating at least 800 children will close their doors by November 10 if funding is not secured. Meanwhile, more than 14,000 children served by the state’s Pre-K Counts program for low-income families could soon be impacted by the ongoing impasse.

Friday marked Pennsylvania’s 115th day without a budget, well beyond the 101 days that nearly crippled the state in 2009. Already, layoffs are beginning to affect social and human services organizations whose programs rely on state funding to assist the elderly, the homeless and victims of domestic violence.

Statewide, school districts and counties have established cash conservancy methods and taken out loans to make up for the deficit in state funds. The Philadelphia School District has not received approximately $400 million from the state as a result of the impasse, according to district spokesman Fernando Gallard. It has taken out $275 million in short-term loans to maintain the cash flow necessary to operate.

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