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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.

Sign Our Mothers Day Request for Senators Flake and McCain

Join us in sending a message to Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake: Preserve health care for children and families, particularly those with pre-existing conditions.

You can sign the petition here. Thank you for standing up for Arizona families!


Thank You, So. Arizona, for Helping Us Celebrate Champion for Children, Susie Huhn

A big thank you to Southern Arizona friends and partners for joining us at our Champion for Children event in Tucson last night to celebrate Casa de los Niños CEO Susie Huhn. Susie is respected throughout Arizona and around the country for her extraordinary work with the community and families.

Susie has concentrated her focus on issues related to child abuse, neglect and prevention, as well as behavioral health treatment for children and youth. Her expertise has made Susie a valuable resource for child advocates, government officials, other child welfare organizations. She is generous in sharing her time and talent and going beyond the walls of her own organization to speak up for children and families.

Susie is past president of Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, serves as advocacy chair for Arizona Council of Health and Human Service Providers and she is a board member of the National Council for Behavioral Health. Congratulations to Susie for a well-deserved honor.

Pictured above right: CAA president & CEO Dana Wolfe Naimark, Champion for Children honoree Susie Huhn and CAA board member Brinton Milward at the celebration on May 4, 2017.

State Budget Behind Closed Doors: Not Enough to Protect Arizona Families

State budget negotiations have been behind the scenes like usual and an official budget proposal was released yesterday for hearings today. While the budget has some small signs of progress for children and families, the big picture will do nothing to improve children’s health education and security. The good news is the votes are not nailed down and there is still a chance to re-shape this budget!

If you have a “Request to Speak” RTS account on the legislative computer system, please click here and sign in against the main budget bills, HB 2537 and SB 1522. Please ask legislators to vote NO on any budget without a 4% teacher raise.

A summary budget chart is attached and some highlights/lowlights are listed below.

  • The budget includes funding for a 1% teacher raise next year and anticipates an additional 1% raise the following year. We are calling for at least a 4% teacher raise next year to take a meaningful step to address our teacher shortage crisis.
  • The budget includes $37 million in “results-based” funding for select district schools and charter schools that are already excelling. Most of the funds go to higher income schools so they will not help close the achievement gap and the funds are not guaranteed for future years so they can’t be used for teacher salaries or ongoing expenses.
  • Nothing in the budget helps children growing up poor to prepare for success in school. Child care rates remain the lowest in the country with thousands of qualified working parents turned away every year. The lifetime limit for TANF cash assistance remains 12 months – the lowest in the nation. Almost no welfare reform funds are spent on job training and helping people move successfully into the workforce.
  • Hidden below the surface of the printed budget are millions more of our tax dollars going to private schools through tax credits and ESA vouchers, corporate tax cuts still phasing in, and new business tax cuts that will grow over time — all leaving fewer resources for public schools.

Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care Should Get Health Coverage Through Medicaid

For young people who have experienced foster care, access to affordable health insurance is critical to their everyday success. While Federal Law has expanded health coverage to alumni who were in foster care at age 18, there are significant roadblocks to enrolling in and maintaining coverage.

Our policy brief, Health Insurance for Youth Formerly in Foster Care – Focus on Medicaid Coverage in Arizona, examines the barriers many youth in foster care face and recommendations to ensure eligible young people can get the health insurance coverage they need to thrive in adulthood.

We also spotlight community provider Phoenix Day; their HealthLinks program provides state-wide support to youth who have aged out of foster care with immediate enrollment assistance. Call Phoenix Day at 602.252.4911, extension 104 to help with the enrollment application.

“When I was 19 and a student at ASU, I got sick and had to go the emergency room. I was given medication and sent home. Three weeks later I got a $12,000 bill in the mail. I was shocked because I thought I had health insurance under the Young Adult Transitional Insurance (YATI) program until I turned 26. Without knowing, I had been dropped from the program. With the help of my caseworker, I reenrolled and was able to get the emergency room visit covered, but the amount of stress that it created for me was unreal.” Ray, Arizona young adult formerly in foster care

Annual Report 2016 – Thanks to You, We’ve Made a Difference

As we face big new challenges for children and families in 2017, let’s take a moment to celebrate the power of advocacy!

Together in 2016, we were able to push for big changes in public policy, such as: the reinstatement of KidsCare after it had been frozen for six years; and eliminating the “grandmother penalty” to help low-income grandparents raising their grandchildren get financial assistance through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families dollars. During the election year, we connected candidates and voters on children’s issues through debates, town hall meetings and online questionnaires.

You can get a snapshot of the power of advocacy in our 2016 Annual Report, available online.

Our efforts are successful because of your support.



President and CEO


Sen. Flake to Hold Town Hall Meeting in Mesa April 13

Tomorrow evening, April 13th, Arizona senator Jeff Flake is holding a constituent Town Hall meeting, as Congress is on April break. Among other topics, this is an opportunity to ask questions and share concerns about the current administration’s plans to eventually overhaul the Affordable Care Act, including making dramatic changes to health care programs for low-income families, such as Medicaid.

Details of the event:

WHERE: Mesa Convention Center
Building C
201 N. Center St.
Mesa, AZ 85201

WHEN: Thursday, April 13
6:00 p.m. PT: Doors open for the public
7:00 p.m. PT: Town hall begins
8:30 p.m. PT: Town hall concludes

More information can be found here.

Because questions are likely to be selected at random or submitted in advance, here are a few you can ask if you are chosen to speak:

• Will you support the Trump-Ryan health care repeal that would raise our premiums and dump 24 million people off their health insurance?
• What will you do to strengthen Medicaid, which covers more than 750,000 children and 1 million adults in Arizona?
• Can we count on you to support a clean, bi-partisan bill reauthorizing funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), KidsCare in Arizona?

Parking information is available on the senator’s website.

Despite Passage of School Vouchers, the Fight for Public Education is NOT Over

Governor Ducey has signed a new law expanding ESA vouchers for private schools to all students statewide after the measure passed the legislature by one vote in each house.

This measure does nothing to address Arizona’s growing teacher shortage crisis, nothing to close the achievement gap for children growing up poor, and nothing to enable public schools to update classroom textbooks and technology. Instead, this bill gives parents a debit card with public tax dollars they can spend on private and religious school tuition, tutoring, or educational therapies.

Higher income students will remain the prime users of ESA vouchers, as they are today. The richest families in our state, who already plan to send their children to private school from K through high school graduation with their own resources, will now be able to get that education subsidized through our income and sales tax dollars – leaving the vast majority of students in neighborhood public schools behind.

The fight for public education is not over! The legislature is still working on the state budget for next year. Now more than ever we need to speak up in support of public education.

Please click here to sign this petition telling our legislature to say yes to teacher raises and no to more tax cuts and tax credits.


Protect Our Health Coverage Rally

Join Children’s Action Alliance and community partners for a rally at the Arizona state capitol tomorrow, calling on Congress to protect health coverage for children and families. The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the American Health Care Act tomorrow afternoon. This bill will kick millions of people off health insurance, including children and seniors, and make coverage unaffordable for millions of others.

Make your voices heard! Here are details for the event:

Protect Our Coverage Rally
Thursday, March 23, 2017, 12:30 PM
Arizona State Capitol Lawn (East side of building)
1700 W. Washington, Phoenix

How Are Kids Doing in Your Legislative District?

Children’s Action Alliance is pleased to share with you our 2017 legislative district fact sheets, information about Arizona’s 30 legislative districts that is updated annually.

Our work is data-driven, and these fact sheets – which we share each year with lawmakers – give you a good sense of what we analyze on a regular basis to determine our policy priorities for the legislative session. We examine conditions for kids and working families in Arizona and focus our efforts on policies that will enhance the lives of children and their families.

Because conditions for children can vary widely from one region of the state to another, we have included the legislative district with the highest and lowest values, as well as the percentages for the state and nation as a whole for each data point.

We invite you to share this information with others. The more informed our policy makers and advocates are, the more likely we will be able to create a better quality of life for Arizona in general.