HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Some early childhood centers certified under Pennsylvania's state-subsidized pre-kindergarten program are starting to tell parents that they will close because of the state's four-month-old budget stalemate, advocates said Friday.
Kate Philips, a spokeswoman for the Pre-K for PA coalition, said that organizations closing their doors by Nov. 10 educate at least 800 children in the state's Pre-K Counts program. Children from low-income families qualify for Pre-K Counts, which serves nearly 14,000 children.
This year's prolonged budget impasse has blown past the 101 day-stalemate of 2009 — Friday was the 115th day — and around the state, layoffs are mounting because social and human services organizations have not gotten state funding that they counted on.
A United Way of Pennsylvania survey of 282 organizations through Oct. 11 reported almost 700 employees who have been furloughed, had hours reduced or worked without pay. More than 500 others lost employee benefits, the United Way said.
School districts and counties are taking out loans, tapping reserves or letting bills pile up. Programs in some areas are piling up waiting lists, including in-home domestic help for the elderly and relocation aid for domestic violence victims or the homeless.
In northeastern Pennsylvania, the Growing Place in Brodheadsville sent a letter home Thursday to Pre-K Counts parents that it is closing the program after next Friday and will not reopen until a budget is passed.
The executive director, Lisa Eick, said her organization cannot hang on any more after spending $40,000 in reserves. The organization had decided against taking out a loan after setting Oct. 30 as a drop-dead date that they thought would never come, Eick said.
"I figured after it went past 100 there would be a huge upset and there's nothing, and that's scary," Eick said.
Sixty-eight children in the Pre-K Counts program will be unable to attend their half-day classes, and seven staff members will be furloughed, Eick said.
With closed-door talks yielding no breakthroughs, the stalemate between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature is expected to plow into November, its fifth month. Pennsylvania and Illinois are the only states still operating without a budget.
This story has been corrected to show the last name of the Pre-K for PA coalition spokeswoman is Philips, not Phillips.