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Return on Education: Arizona Schools Count on Prop. 301 Sales Tax

We launched our Return on Education policy briefs in August, looking at specific K-12 education funding streams and exploring what long term strategies are needed to boost our education system. This month, we explain Proposition 301, approved by Arizona voters 15 years ago, with a state sales tax dedicated to education plus mandated cost of living increases for school budgets. This key source of funding generates more than $500 million a year for K-12 public schools.

Although the inflation funding mandate continues, the sales tax is scheduled to expire in less than six years. If this funding is not renewed or updated, schools face even tougher budget challenges ahead.

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Arizonans agree that tomorrow’s economy depends on effective investments in third grade reading success, up-to-date textbooks and technology, safe facilities, and exceptional, experienced teachers. Any credible plan for supporting K-12 education in Arizona needs to include sustainable funding and a general fund commitment, not just duct-taped, temporary measures that leave schools and students vulnerable in the future.

As Governor Ducey and state lawmakers discuss options for a special session on school funding, they must pay attention to the consequences from the severe state budget cuts over the past six years as well as the funding cliff ahead.

Our Return on Education: Proposition 301 Sales Tax brief is now online, and you can find our first installment on State Land Trust Funding and Governor Ducey’s proposal here.

Percent of Uninsured Kids Drop, Still Many Without Coverage

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau found some encouraging news about Arizona children: the percentage of those without health insurance is dropping; even if slowly, the number is going in the right direction. The survey results from 2014 found 10% of Arizona kids lack coverage, down from 12% in 2013.

While it is no surprise the Affordable Care Act is having a positive impact on uninsured families, there are still too many children in our state without coverage. Arizona has the third highest rate of kids without health insurance, behind only Alaska and Texas. Additionally, Arizona ranks highest in the percentage of UNINSURED children who could qualify for low-cost coverage through KidsCare – coverage for children in working families available in every state EXCEPT Arizona.

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Many working families face high costs in Obamacare Marketplace health plans – even if they qualify for federal subsidies.  As a result, too many children in families with incomes of $30,000 to $50,000 remain left out of health care.  Enrollment in KidsCare has been frozen since 2010.  But now Arizona has the opportunity to lift the freeze.  As Arizona explores health care reform strategies, covering more kids should be a top priority.

Join us for Inspiration: Through the Eyes of a Child Luncheon on Oct. 23

Next month, Children’s Action Alliance hosts the 17th Annual Inspiration: Through the Eyes of a Child luncheon, honoring two of Arizona’s champions for children, Kate Brophy McGee, a state lawmaker from Phoenix, and Patti Luttrell, co-founder and executive director of Children’s Cancer Network.

Each year, we choose honorees whose efforts truly make a difference in the lives of our state’s children. Representative Brophy McGee, who has served in the legislature since 2011, has been a passionate leader for reforms in Arizona’s child protective services system.  She serves as co-chair of the Joint Legislative Child Safety Oversight Committee and she has energetically sponsored  key pieces of legislation to improve child safety and connect children with safe and permanent homes.

Kate was a dedicated member of the Washington Elementary School board, where she served for ten years.

Through Children’s Cancer Network, Patti Luttrell has helped Arizona families struggling with a pediatric cancer diagnosis with basic assistance to help pay for meals, gas and other essentials. Patti, mother of a child with cancer, co-founded the organization after witnessing firsthand the financial needs of families affected by cancer whose parents are focused on getting treatment for a sick child.

Please join us in celebrating these two outstanding Arizonans for their tireless work and dedication to children. The event takes place on Friday, October 23 at 11:30 am at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa. Get your tickets today and join us for celebration and inspiration.

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Essential DCS Charts and Graphs

The Department of Child Services (DCS) provides dozens of data indicators related to the reports of abuse or neglect it receives and the children and families who receive some kind of service from DCS.

Here at Children’s Action Alliance, we frequently go over the data available to us and the general public and try to make sense of it all and what it means to the children and families of Arizona.

The links below contains many of the charts and graphs we find are the most useful when determining how well Arizona’s children are protected from abuse and neglect.

DCS Charts and Graphs, Updated as of 12/31/15

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You Can Help Us in Two Ways This Week…

As we get ready for Labor Day weekend, we want to ask you to help us with two important things.

First, we are hiring and need your help filling a position for an executive assistant here at Children’s Action Alliance. If someone you know is passionate about improving the lives of Arizona’s children and is looking for an energetic and dynamic work environment with excellent benefits, please send them this job announcement and have them submit a resume and cover letter. We are looking for the right person to join our dedicated team, as we have busy 12 times ahead of us. The full job description is here.

Second, our Inspiration: Through the Eyes of a Child Annual Luncheon is coming up fast and now is the perfect time to get your tickets before they sell out. This year, we will honor Phoenix legislator Kate Brophy McGee and Children’s Cancer Network co-founder Patti Luttrell. The event takes place on Friday, October 23rd at 11:30 am at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, and you can purchase a full table or single tickets, available online.

Have a great holiday weekend.

September is Grandfamilies/Kinship Care Month

Sixteen cities across Arizona have proclaimed September as Kinship Care Month, a time to recognize grandparents and other family members raising children who cannot be cared for by their own parents. Thank you to the following mayors for their support at September 1st news conferences in Pima and Maricopa Counties: Jackie Meck of Buckeye, Jonathan Rothschild of Tucson (pictured below), and Tom Schoaf of Litchfield Park.

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Kinship care is not new, but it is growing. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, nearly 177,000 (5%) of Arizona’s children are being raised by family other than their parents, 67,000 of them by grandparents. Staying with family rather than in foster care is a good alternative for children because they need the stability of being in a familiar setting at a time when their lives are being disrupted.

Many grandparents with young children in their care may struggle to help raise them, both financially and physically. Grandfamilies need our support to help them get access to financial assistance, apply for health coverage for their grandchildren and establish a smoother process for gaining guardianship of the children in their care. Grandfamilies need to be able to easily find local training and support services for their grandchildren in their own neighborhoods.

Learn more about grandfamilies and kinship care here. If you are a grandparent raising your grandchildren, get peer support by joining the Arizona Grandparent Ambassadors at http://www.azga.org/.

Cities that proclaimed Kinship Care Month include: Apache Junction, Buckeye, Casa Grande, Florence, Gilbert, Goodyear, Humboldt, Litchfield Park, Payson, Phoenix, Prescott, Queen Creek, Safford, Scottsdale, Surprise, and Tucson.