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Some child care advocates say Shapiro’s budget proposal doesn’t go far enough

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
There are thousands of open child care positions statewide, advocates say, leading to tens of thousands of children on waiting lists for care.

Despite some proposed investments announced Tuesday, some child care advocacy organizations say they’re disappointed the budget Gov. Josh Shapiro put forth earlier this week this doesn’t do more to raise wages and grow the state’s child care workforce.   

The Governor, a Democrat, made his first budget proposal Tuesday to state legislators; the legislature is a divided between a Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled state House.

“We can’t ignore the fact that it’s hard for moms and dads to get to work in the first place if they don’t have affordable child care. In any given year, over a third of Pennsylvania parents report that child care problems impacted their job. And our state economy loses nearly $3.5 billion dollars a year because of a lack of child care options,” Shapiro told assembled legislators earlier this week, and highlighted the need for more workers in the field.

While Shapiro’s address Tuesday spoke to the importance of child care for parents, educators, and the overall health of the economy, one group of advocates said the governor’s budget proposal “merely maintains a system already in crisis.”

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The sector continues to suffer from a serious staffing shortage, largely due to low wages. That leads to a lack of childcare for families, which hurts both families and employers, as well as child care workers who don’t earn a family-sustaining income. It is difficult for child care programs to pay their workers more because the cost of care for families is already so high — often hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month. The issue was already a problem prior to Covid-19, but the pandemic further battered the sector.

There’s roughly 4,000 open child care positions and about 35,000 kids on waitlists for care, according to a survey released earlier this month by advocacy organizations Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA.

“What we saw in in the childcare proposal [the governor] put on the table was really an investment that just continues the system as it currently exists. It's not addressing the very significant workforce shortage that exists in child care right now,” said Cara Ciminillo, executive director of Pittsburgh-based advocacy group Trying Together.

The proposal does include some additional funds for both the Pre-K Counts and Head Start programs.

Shapiro proposed an increase of $66.7 million in additional state funds for Child Care Works, the state’s subsidized child care program; while that represents new state funds, it will make up for federal funds that are set to expire.

The governor’s $44.4 billion budget proposal kicks off months of budget hearings and negotiations with the state legislature; a final budget is due by June 30 for the new fiscal year that begins July 1.

Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.