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Are Children a Priority in the Federal Budget?

As summer winds down and Congress gets ready to reconvene, talk of the federal budget has begun to heat up again. The current federal budget is set to expire on September 30, 2013 and the debt ceiling is expected to be reached by mid-October. Both of these deadlines are likely to set off big battles in Congress over spending and tax priorities.

Pages from ChildrensBudget2013First Focus, a national children’s organization, recently released Children’s Budget 2013, a detailed guide offering five-year funding data for more than 180 federal investments in children. This report examines the recent spending levels for programs that benefit our nation’s children, with some surprising findings:

• Federal spending on children’s programs has fallen by 16 percent since 2010.
• The total portion of all federal budget spent on children’s programs is only 8%. The total spending on defense related programs is three times as much.
• Sequestration this year was responsible for cutting over $4 billion from children’s programs.

President Obama has introduced a budget that increases spending on children’s programs by 4%, primarily by restoring the cuts in the sequester. On the other hand, the budget passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would likely cut over $100 billion from programs that help and protect our nation’s children.

America needs to increase our investment in children. As two research economists from the Federal Reserve Banks point out:

“Compared with the billions of dollars spent each year on questionable economic development schemes, we think investment in early childhood is a far better and more promising economic development tool.…Not only will these efforts benefit children and families, they will benefit the taxpaying public and the national economy.”

Post by: Joshua Oehler – Research Associate

 

CAA Southern Arizona Director, Penelope Jacks, on the Buckmaster Show

New CPS Data Released

The Arizona Department of Economic Security recently released new information on Arizona’s abused and neglected children. This report covers Child Protective Services data from October 2012 to July 2013.

• 14,000 children are still in foster care, a record number that was reached last year
• More than 25% of the cases assigned for investigation during the second half of 2012 remain open as of July 2013.
• While CPS staff caseloads are still much too high, significant progress has been made towards lowering these caseloads since the last report in March of 2013.
• The percentage of children placed with relatives has increased and the percentage placed with foster homes has decreased.
• The number of children entering out-of-home care for at least the second time in the last 2 years has increased.

Pages from CPS charts, 8-13 new data graphicAlthough some progress is being made, the system is not able to meet the demands to protect children. Children’s Action Alliance continues to work with DES, community partners, and state legislators to enhance the focus on family support and prevent the need for foster care in many cases.

Click here to see the latest CAA charts and our dashboard on the recently released CPS data.

California comeback … with higher taxes …

Exploring all options

CALIFORNIA RAISED TAXES AND GREW MORE JOBS

Last fall Californians voted to increase the state sales tax as well as income taxes for the wealthiest Californians. One executive in California predicted that this temporary rate increase would cause his state’s economy to self-destruct and that more companies “would be motivated to find greener pastures.” The Greater Phoenix Economic Council announced it would offer free airfare and hotel rooms to the first 50 California CEOs and high-tech, high-wage business owners who wanted to look at moving to Arizona. The assumption was that many of the California businesses fleeing east would relocate in Arizona, adding new jobs to our economy.

It’s almost been a year since the rate increase was voted through in California. So, did their economy self destruct?

Arizona_Locator_Map 100pxCalifornia_Locator_Map 100pxFar from it. According to the latest information from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arizona has added 20,100 new jobs since December 2012 – a 0.8% increase. And California? That state added six times as many new jobs — 123,700 jobs over the same period, for an even larger increase — 0.9%.

The fact is that, whether it’s a business or an individual, deciding to leave one state to move to another depends on a lot of factors – and tax rates are far from the top of the list.

Arizona policymakers are beginning a public discussion about our state individual income tax. he new Joint Task Force on Income Task Reform had their first meeting yesterday and will meet for several more months to discuss tax simplification and fairness. Presentations in the first meeting highlighted how simple and low Arizona’s income taxes are already. See the bottom line about state taxes in CAA’s new fact sheet. We’ll keep you up to date as the discussion unfolds.

The Facts of Arizona’s Individual Income Tax

In preparation for tomorrow’s Joint Task Force on Income Tax Reform state legislative hearing we’ve prepared a document of the most important facts about Arizona’s individual income tax. Click here to read it.

Feds award $67 million for health-care guides

Updated Legislative District Fact Sheets

We have updated our fact sheets about conditions for kids in each legislative district in the state. The new fact sheets include the updated percentage of third grade students passing the AIMS reading test in a sampling of schools and school districts within each legislative district for the 2012-2013 school year. Of the 1,153 schools with third graders who participated in the reading portion of the AIMS test in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, 45% saw the percentage of third graders passing drop, 48% saw the percentage passing increase and the rest saw no change. Statewide the percentage passing did not change, 75% of third graders taking the AIMS reading test passed in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.

In almost all the legislative districts you’ll find some schools with most third graders passing the AIMS reading test and some schools with only a small percentage passing. There are children falling behind in every region of the state – and opportunities for change in every region.

Research shows that if students aren’t reading well by the end of third grade their odds of completing high school are significantly diminished. The third grade reading scores also give us an important benchmark of children’s access to early education, strong families, and regular health care from birth through third grade. This is a measure that points to both our progress and our challenges that can mobilize us toward action for greater reading success.

 

Click here to see the updated legislative district fact sheets.

 

Latest Child Obesity Rates

In 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that close to 10% of 2-5 year old children living in low income households in Arizona were obese. At that rate, Arizona was doing well with only 7 states in the country having lower obesity rates for low income, young children.

That all changed at the start of this century. Arizona’s obesity rate for young children rose above the national average, peaking at 14.6% in 2008 and falling only very slightly since then. The most recent data from the CDC shows that there is cdc childhood obesity pdnssreason for Arizonans and the rest of the country to be hopeful. Previous studies have shown decreases in child obesity rates among children living in higher income households, but this most recent data from the CDC shows that the trend is also going in the right direction among low income young children. In 18 states the obesity rate dropped significantly between 2008 and 2011 and in 20 other states, including Arizona, the rates remained the same.

The positive trend shows that community and family focus on better nutrition and more physical activity both lead to healthier kids. Healthy change can start with moms breastfeeding their babies. Research shows breastfeeding brings many health gains to children, including lower rates of obesity. The Department of Health Services Baby Steps for Breastfeeding Success program provides support to moms, hospitals and child care centers to encourage breastfeeding.

DHS also works with licensed child care centers throughout the state on healthy strategies to limit the amount of time children sit in front of a tv or computer screen, make more water available for kids to drink instead of juice, and encourage more physical play. See information about Empower Pack here.

Read the Children’s Action Alliance publication, Weighing In, for practical ideas on how Arizona schools can bring better nutrition and more physical activity into the regular school day – with good results for both health and academics.With continued effort, we can see Arizona on the list of improved states in the next CDC report.