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Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding: A 2017 Legislative Report Card for Kids

Children’s Action Alliance is pleased to bring you our annual report card, Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding, an overview of how your legislators voted on priority measures for the 2017 session. This year, we looked at how lawmakers voted on tax cuts, the state budget, school vouchers (Empowerment Scholarship Accounts) and driver’s insurance for foster youth.

We invite you to read and share this easy-to-use bottom line information about what the legislative session means for children and families.

 

School Vouchers and Why They are Not Good for AZ Public Schools

Children’s Action Alliance fought to defeat SB 1431 this legislative session, the expansion of school vouchers, called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, or ESAs. We worked hard to let lawmakers know that this diversion of public dollars into private and religious schools would expand ESA vouchers to every student in Arizona, while leaving public schools behind. The voucher scheme does nothing to address our teacher shortage crisis or improve our crumbling school facilities. But with intensive pressure from Governor Ducey, the universal voucher bill became law after passing by one vote in the Senate and one vote in the House.

We are proud to be working with Save Our Schools Arizona, a statewide, grassroots group of parents and educators who are collecting signatures on a petition to put SB1431 on the 2018 ballot so that voters have the chance to overturn it.

You can help Save Our Schools succeed by August 1:

*Visit SOSarizona.org today to donate or volunteer! Volunteers are needed to carry petitions, perform data entry, verify signatures, transport petitions, etc. There is room for everyone to help.

*Sign the petition! You can find daily events in every corner of our state on Facebook.

Please get involved to support public education!

Click here to get our new policy brief that explains the dangers of ESA vouchers.

 

New Report Finds Most Kids in AZ Do Not Have Access to Preschool Programs

Arizona once again ranks at the bottom of the country for access to quality and state investments per child on preschool. According to the 2016 State of Preschool Yearbook released annually by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), despite bipartisan national support for quality early preschool, Arizona continues to lose ground. The report states that “decades of research shows that early childhood education can prepare children for greater success in elementary school and beyond- but only if quality is high”. In Arizona, the legislature eliminated general fund dollars for preschool in 2010. Those dollars have not been replaced despite improvements in the state’s economy.

Currently, the only state funding going to quality preschool programs is delivered through the First Things First, Quality First scholarship program. Funding for this program fell 17 percent from the 2014-2015 reports. Only 4 percent of Arizona’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in state funded preschool, far below the national average of 32 percent. In practical terms, 1800 children lost access to quality early preschool programs in the past year. What’s more, the state investment per child is nearly $1500 below the national average.

We must continue to advocate for state level policies and investments that help actually move us forward from discussion to action.The full report can be found here.

Conditions for Arizona Kids Show Few Bright Spots, Health Care Strides at Risk

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 KIDS COUNT® Data Book finds Arizona’s conditions for kids remain difficult, in the bottom five in the nation, ranking 46th. The yearly analysis looks at 16 different indicators affecting children’s health, economic well-being and family and community factors.

Although Arizona has one of the highest rates of uninsured kids in the nation, a bright spot in the report is that more Arizona kids had health insurance, which they were able to get because of Medicaid (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System or AHCCCS) and coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. This progress is at risk if Congress approves massive cuts to Medicaid or passes the American Health Care Act in its current form.

Because the report evaluates 2015 data, the numbers do not include the more than 20,000 children now enrolled in KidsCare, reinstated last year.

The report is available online.

Experts Say Medicaid/AHCCCS is Critical to Arizona’s Economy

Thanks to all of you who joined our panel of economists and business leaders on Tuesday, June 6th at the Medicaid Works forum to discuss the connection between Medicaid, jobs and economic growth.

We learned a lot from our moderator, Don Henninger, and panelists Lee McPheters, Mike Hutchinson, Josh Nuñez, and David Lujan.

McPheters stressed that Medicaid, known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS, is a critical part of the state’s economic growth.

“A loss of federal funds for Medicaid could trigger a health care recession and have dramatic ripple effects throughout our economy. There is no way the private sector could replace the current Medicaid health care system that now covers 2 million people in Arizona,” McPheters told the audience.

Lujan, who served in the Arizona legislature for eight years, added that no matter how solid an education system is, children need regular health care to succeed. He also said if Congress makes good on plans to turn health care responsibility over to the states, Governor Ducey will be the one deciding which families get to keep health coverage and which don’t. “Governor Ducey will be the one signing the state budget that wipes out treatment and coverage for thousands of people in our state.”

The forum, sponsored by Vitalyst Health Foundation, Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition, and Children’s Action Alliance, included questions from participants. Attendees pointed out that Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have a critical role to play in standing up for Arizona’s economic needs as the US Senate develops its own health care legislation.

 

Join The AZ Schools Now Network

A little more than a year ago, Children’s Action Alliance joined forces with nine other organizations to form a coalition focused on reinvesting in Arizona’s public schools.

The coalition, AZ Schools Now, has brought parents, teachers, school board members, and community advocates together to advance policies that address our teacher shortage and strengthen public schools. We have held statewide community budget hearings, sent postcards to our legislators, highlighted key education issues for the media, met with lawmakers, and organized rallies at the Capitol.

To make this voice for public education strong and unified, we are asking you to join the AZ Schools Now network.

Click here to get email updates and notice of events

To learn more, visit our new website.

Together we can improve educational opportunities for Arizona’s future.

Let Congress Know They MUST Protect KidsCare!

KidsCare is threatened once again in Arizona. President Trump’s budget slashes CHIP funding and will cause an immediate freeze to KidsCare. Since the freeze on KidsCare was lifted in September of 2016, 20,000 children now have health coverage, with hundreds more signing up every week.

Email our congressional delegation today to let them know we need to keep KidsCare for Arizona’s children. If you don’t know your congressional district, click here to find it.

Sample Email:

I’m writing to ask you to act quickly to make sure we can continue KidsCare health coverage in Arizona. President Trump’s budget slashes CHIP funding and will cause an immediate freeze to KidsCare. Thanks to KidsCare, 20,000 children can now see a doctor for preventative care or when they are sick. Let’s not take Arizona backwards, especially by kicking children off of lifesaving health coverage. Act now to protect CHIP funding in the budget!

District representatives and senators can be reached by clicking on the hyperlinks below.

Senator John McCain Contact Form
Senator Jeff Flake Contact Form
Congressional District 1 Tom O’Halleran
Congressional District 2 Martha McSally
Congressional District 3 Raul Grijalva
Congressional District 4 Paul Gosar
Congressional District 5 Andy Biggs
Congressional District 6 David Schweikert
Congressional District 7 Ruben Gallego
Congressional District 8 Trent Franks
Congressional District 9 Kyrsten Sinema

Join CAA and Our Partners for a Discussion on Medicaid

PDF Version 

Join our panel of economic and business experts to learn how

Medicaid Works!

Join us for a discussion about Medicaid in Arizona (AHCCCS)

and how it benefits the state budget, local economies and working families.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

6:00pm to 8:00pm

ASU Preparatory Academy

735 E Fillmore St., Phoenix

Panelists include:

Lee McPheters, Arizona State University

Mike Hutchinson, East Valley Partnership

David Lujan, Arizona Center for Economic Progress

Moderator: Don Henninger, DH Advisors and SCOTT

Please RSVP by Monday, June 5 to Charlie Fisher at (602) 525-4889
Light refreshments will be served

ICYMI: A Snapshot of Lawmakers’ 2017 – 18 Budget

PDF Version for printing here

If you’ve not had a chance to get caught up on the latest legislative news since the session ended, here is a quick snapshot of what it looks like for the next fiscal year:

The Good and Not-So-Good of the 2018 State Budget

The state legislature ended its 2017 session last night. There were a few small bright spots for children and families. But the big decisions put us on a path to endanger children’s health, education and security going forward. Many Arizona lawmakers continue to point to the 2009 Great Recession, to blame struggling parents, and to vilify cities and school boards instead of standing up to take responsibility for the policy decisions in their hands.

Arizona kids need our voices and our commitment to build a better future.

Below is a brief summary with more details to come soon.

Small bright spots:

• A new law streamlines the application process for SNAP benefits (food stamps). This law will help alleviate hunger in Arizona by removing a cumbersome and expensive requirement for in-person finger imaging.
• Aunts, uncles and other relatives who raise abused and neglected children rather than placing them in foster care will now be able to get a small monthly payment to keep them more financially stable.
• School districts with a high percentage of low-income students can apply for $8 million in grants to strengthen their early literacy strategies and improve third grade reading success.
• Some moms who participate in TANF cash assistance will be able to care for their children and get more time to prepare to re-enter the workforce. Moms who have perfect compliance with requirements for their children’s school attendance and job search will be able to extend participation for up to 12 additional months beyond the 12-month lifetime limit. See Governor Ducey’s statement directing his administration to work with us on helping families succeed.
• New legislation takes one step forward in giving youth in foster care a tool they need to support their transition into adulthood. The law permits youth living in foster care who are at least 16 years old and who have taken a driver safety course to buy auto insurance on their own.

Big danger for children and families:

• The budget invests only a 1% increase in teacher pay with another 1% “intended” for next year. Due to the intentional structure of this item in the budget, it is not built into ongoing state funding for schools so districts and charters can’t count on it permanently. As a result, they will probably use it for one-time bonuses for teachers, rather than for pay raises.
• Small amounts of new funding were added to a number of small education initiatives, with no focused impact to address the teacher shortage or the achievement gap for low-income students.
• A new law expands ESA school vouchers to allow subsidies for private schools for every student, no matter what their income. The number of new vouchers is allowed to grow each year until 2022 with more state tax dollars removed from public schools without accountability.
• State lawmakers took no action and made no plan to close an annual deficit of $1.1 billion in cuts to public schools that have not been restored, leaving Arizona families and businesses facing a teacher shortage, outdated textbooks and technology, and unsafe school buses and school facilities.
• Governor Ducey and a majority of lawmakers chose private schools, political soundbites, and corporate giveaways above children’s health, education and security. Private school tax credits continue to grow by 20% each year while by fiscal year 2020 new tax cuts will take more than $30 million out of the coffers for education with no evidence of any return on investment.
• Arizona remains an outlier, leaving our children behind children in every other state in the nation with the lowest rates of child care assistance, the lowest teacher salaries, the shortest lifetime limit on assistance for poor moms and children.