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Child Care: Good News & Bad News

child care blocks rounded cornersThere’s good news and bad news for Arizona’s working families looking for strong, affordable child care. Recently, the state sent letters to every qualified family who was on the waiting list for child care vouchers, offering them a chance to come in and update their applications and receive a voucher to help them pay for the child care that works for them. Clearing the waiting list to bring in more children happened thanks to the united efforts of so many Arizonans last year that convinced the state legislature to appropriate more funding for child safety, including $4 million for child care vouchers.

An upward trend in children participating in child care vouchers prevents conditions of child neglect and helps slow the growth in cases at our new Department of Child Safety. The bad news is that this trend might move into reverse. Governor Ducey’s new budget proposal zeroes out the $4 million in state funding. While it leaves the current vouchers in place thanks to federal dollars, it’s a budget mistake that would leave more children in unstable and unsafe situations. We will call on the Governor and lawmakers to correct this mistake and keep the current funding.

These budget issues highlight just a few of the problems parents and communities have in assuring that all children have access to safe, quality child care. Many people ask, “What can I do?”  To learn more about the issues of early childhood, child care and ways families and communities can make a difference, join us tomorrow for a screening of a new film about child care and the future of our nation. The events include an expert panel discussion (with my CEO Dana Wolfe Naimark) and the opportunity to network on this critical issues. Click here for a flyer.

AZ educators question prison funding over education

See how the Ducey Budget plan impacts kids

Last Friday, Governor Ducey released his budget proposal. He proposed a variety of tactics to close the gap between projected revenues and expenses over the next 18 months. And, he revealed his values and priorities regarding education, health care and child safety. CAA has prepared some useful charts to highlight key areas, and drafted the following to help you navigate the complex budget proposal.

CHILD SAFETY: Thanks to our united efforts to hold lawmakers accountable for the safety of Arizona’s children, the Ducey budget includes sustained funding for the Department of Child Safety, including a shift of $4 million dollars from addressing the CPS case backlog into in-home services to keep families safely together. It also increases the stipend amount for families who foster teenagers, to help move more teens out of group homes and into families.

CHILDCARE: Counter to child safety and educational goals, the Ducey budget cuts back on child care vouchers and drains the fund that helps working families find safe and affordable child care…and keep their jobs. It’s a short-sighted budget cut, especially when millions of dollars sit in the Rainy Day Fund.

JUVENILE JUSTICE: Governor Ducey’s budget helps keep children out of locked facilities at the Department of Juvenile Corrections. He proposes that children who have committed misdemeanors only get help and consequences in their own community rather than a state lock-up. And he asks counties to help pay the cost of any youth they commit to state facilities.

EDUCATION: “Opportunity is that chance we all need to use our gifts, rise in the world, live as we were meant to live and give our children a better future.” – Doug Ducey, Inauguration Speech, 1/5/15.

CAA – and people throughout Arizona – can agree with that statement. But…the Ducey Budget contradicts the Governor’s own words. He hits education with more than three quarters of his total proposed budget cuts in FY 16. Neighborhood public schools have to cut $113 million in spending; charter schools have to cut $10 million.

Governor Ducey tries to make these cuts seem painless by saying they will be from “non-classroom” spending. But Arizonans know better. Librarians, speech therapists, nurses, academic counselors, social workers, school breakfasts and lunch, and security staff are all in the non-classroom category. And they are all vital to “give our children a better future.”

The Governor’s budget also shifts $24 million in classroom funding to school facilities for charter schools and leaves funding per student in both neighborhood and charter schools far behind inflation.

HEALTH CARE: The Ducey budget cuts health care payment rates to doctors, hospitals, and ambulances by 3% – driving some providers out of Medicaid and diminishing access to our health care system.

REVENUE INCREASES AND CUTS: The Ducey budget raises the annual fee we pay to register our cars from $8 to $14 or $15 – an increase that hits low income families especially hard. The $65 million raised will help pay the costs for the highway patrol in the Department of Public Safety.

The budget continues to phase in business tax cuts that are already on the books – $112 million more in FY 16 and $267 million more each year by FY 18. The budget also assumes that income tax revenues will be cut beginning in FY 17 based on a new law to adjust income tax brackets for inflation every year.

The Governor proposes to cap a tax rebate to some home owners in order to add some control and predictability to this part of the tax system. This will mean homeowners will pay $26.5 million more in property taxes in FY 17.

Unfortunately, the Ducey budget leaves many tax credits with caps that double every few years – or no caps at all – so these continue to lack accountability, predictability, or control while they outpace growth in other state spending. The Ducey budget also shifts $64 million in costs onto local governments and hospitals.

CORRECTIONS: Governor Ducey’s budget increases prison spending by $52 million including: expansion of the prison system with 3,000 new private prison beds; increased funding to improve inmate health care; funding to operate the 1,500 prison beds added this year; and operational funding for inmate population growth.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Ducey budget may balance the state’s checkbook, but it lacks a greater vision for Arizona’s children and families and future. The Governor says his budget eliminates our “structural deficit” by 2017 by bringing annual spending back in line with annual revenues without relying on carry-forward balances or funding sweeps. Governor Ducey’s realignment plan includes continuing to phase in more tax cuts, increasing the size of our prisons while shrinking resources for higher education, backtracking on child care assistance, weakening the capacity of our health care system, and permanently reducing per student operational funding in public schools – both district and charter.

Once again, we will have a busy year as voices for kids. Arizona children are counting on you to speak up for their health, education, safety and SUCCESS.

Losing KidsCare hurt Arizona families, reports suggest

New Report Shows Impact From Loss Of KidsCare Health Care Program

Loss of KidsCare Has Big Impact

Pages from Childrens-Coverage-in-Arizona-A-Cautionary-Tale-for-the-Future-of-Childrens-Health-Insurance-ProgramArizona children have limited options for health coverage after state policymakers dismantled Arizona’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), called KidsCare. Arizona is the only state in the country where children do not have access to CHIP. Two new reports released today by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF) focus on how cuts to children’s coverage have hurt Arizona families and what lessons can be learned from Arizona’s experience for the upcoming national debate on the future of CHIP.

The new reports are based on focus group research and interviews conducted with the families of some of these children by PerryUndem Research and Communications.

The first report chronicles some of the hardships faced by families whose kids lost health care coverage with the dismantling of KidsCare. One parent shared that her daughter who has Lupus and heart and respiratory ailments was hospitalized because her family could not afford the doctor visits and medications she required.

The second report finds that the problems experienced by Arizona families could become more widespread if CHIP is not funded quickly.

Read Living Without KidsCare: Insights from Parents of Children Who Lost Their Health Coverage When Arizona Scaled Back Its Children’s Health Insurance Program here

and

Children’s Coverage in Arizona: A Cautionary Tale for the Future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program here.

The next step should be for Arizona leaders to work with Congress to chart a path to close this dangerous coverage gap and bring back KidsCare.

 

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