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Investments In Quality Early Education Yield High Returns

The evidence is clear: when young children have healthy and enriching experiences, with one on one attention from teachers, parents and caregivers, they are more likely to be ready for school and to transition successfully into kindergarten and beyond. Decades of evidence shows that an investment in quality early education saves considerable money in long term costs to address the issues that occur when students struggle in school.

Children’s Action Alliance has released a new policy brief entitled “Investments in Early Education Yield High Returns.”  The brief examines why quality early childhood is important for families and children, but also for businesses. It also provides an overview of the foundations that already exist here in Arizona as well as a look at some of the gaps and how we compare to other states.

It’s up to us to make sure policymakers hear the voices of teachers, parents, and business leaders: Early childhood is an investment we can’t afford to ignore.

 

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.

Sincerely,

 

President and CEO

 

House GOP Health Care Proposal Would Make Coverage Unaffordable for Arizonans

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Fewer Available Tax Credits Would Hit Arizona Hard

(Phoenix, AZ) – Arizona would be among the states facing the biggest cuts to tax credits in the nation under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal plan being considered by House Committees this week, according to new estimates released today by the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Where tax credits would fall by an average of $1,700, or 36 percent, for marketplace consumers across all states, they would fall by an average of $3,548, or 55 percent, in Arizona.

That’s largely because the House plan’s tax credits, unlike those in the ACA, would not adjust for geographic variation in premiums. Under current law, a 45-year old with income of $22,000 could purchase benchmark health insurance coverage for $1,200 or less anywhere in the country. Under the House plan, she would pay at least $5,200 to purchase comparable coverage in Arizona.

The reduction in tax credits would be even more severe for lower-income and older consumers. Older people would also be hit hard by a provision in the House bill that would let them be charged higher premiums, and lower-income people would lose help with deductibles, copays, and coinsurance.

“The House Republican health plan would drive insurance costs so high that many Arizonans could no longer afford it – especially low-income and older people.” said Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance. “Arizona’s uninsured rates has dropped from over 20 percent to 11 percent as the Affordable Care Act’s major coverage reforms took effect. Reversing these historic gains and putting Arizona’s health insurance market in jeopardy would be highly irresponsible.”

House Plan Could Destabilize, or Even Collapse, Individual Market

President Trump has promised to replace the ACA with a plan that provides “good coverage at much less cost.” However, the House plan’s severe cuts to tax credits in Arizona would almost certainly result in large coverage losses for low- and moderate-income people. Those coverage losses would be bad for the people losing access to care, but they could also destabilize Arizona’s individual market for everyone. That’s because the enrollment declines could lead to large increases in premiums, resulting in further enrollment declines and further premium increases. The feedback loop could continue until Arizona’s individual market shrank substantially, and coverage for everyone became far less affordable.

House Plan Would End Medicaid As We Know It

The House Republican health plan would effectively end Arizona’s Medicaid expansion under the ACA, under which more than 400,000 Arizonans have gained coverage. It would also radically restructure Medicaid’s federal financing system and cut federal Medicaid funding for states over time. This would quickly squeeze the state budget, and lead to cuts in Medicaid coverage and services for children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

“More than one in three children in Arizona count on Medicaid for affordable coverage that includes check-ups, prescriptions, and treatments kids need. The Republican bill would put all those kids at risk. It would take us backwards on healthy childhoods, behavioral health treatment for kids and parents to keep families strong, and the ability of kids to succeed in school,” said Naimark.

To read the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ full analysis of the impacts of the House Republican ACA repeal plan tax credits, please visit the center’s website.

For county-specific data on the impacts of the House Republican ACA repeal plan tax credits, please visit: http://kaiserf.am/2lSCggd.

To learn more about the impact on states of the House Republican plan to radically overhaul Medicaid, please visit: http://bit.ly/2m0sTv4.

Here is a fact sheet on the impact the proposal would have in Arizona. 

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Georgetown Study Finds Number of Uninsured Kids is Dropping

boy at doctor for webEfforts to get more kids covered by health insurance are paying off. A recent study from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families finds the number of uninsured children in Arizona has dropped as the impact of health reform has taken effect. The percentage of kids without health coverage in Arizona declined by 30% between 2013 and 2015.

Thanks to Obamacare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the national uninsured rate for children was at a record low of 4.8% in 2015.  Arizona’s rate was still much higher at 8.3%.  Community groups throughout the state are working to push that uninsured rate down as we get the word out that KidsCare is back as a low-cost option for working families.

Our handy online toolkit has posters, question and answer sheets, ready-made social media posts, photos and other items you can share to help more families connect with KidsCare.

 

 

 

New Study Finds Investment in Public K-12 Education Continues to Drop

canstockphoto2402821Arizona is among five of the eight states with the biggest cuts to public education since 2008 that have also cut income taxes during that time period, according to an updated report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Per student state dollars, adjusted for inflation, for Arizona’s K-12 funding formula is 12.8% lower in fiscal year 2017 than in fiscal year 2008. Over the same period, Arizona personal and corporate income tax rates were cut by 12.8% between 2008 and 2017.

To learn more about how Arizona compares to other states when it comes to restoring state support for K-12 education, read the full report After Nearly a Decade, School Investments Still Way Down in Some States. 

New KIDS COUNT Data Ranks Arizona 45th in Nation

2016 KidsCount photoThe Annie E. Casey Foundation is out with its annual KIDS COUNT® Data Book, ranking Arizona 45th overall, up from 46th in 2015. The analysis ranks states on 16 data markers, including education, health, poverty and family situation, as well as community factors.

While Arizona is still in the bottom ten states, improvements in math proficiency were the most notable area of progress, propelling the state from 35th in 2015 to 18th in 2016. Arizona eighth graders performed better than the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, with 65% in our state not meeting proficiency, while nationally, that statistic is 68%.  Better scores can be attributed to an aggressive effort by public K-12 schools to adopt and meet more rigorous math standards.

Children growing up in Arizona continue to face big challenges, according to the report, with the state ranking in the bottom 10 for fourth grade reading, high school graduation and preschool participation. Additionally, one in four kids lives in a high poverty area, a factor that can have a dramatic impact on educational and future success.

The full KIDS COUNT® Data Book is available online. 

Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding? Our Annual Legislative Update for 2016

To put it mildly, it has been a rollercoaster legislative session for kids this year, and we have compiled a list of our priority bills and tracked voting records of every Arizona state senator and representative.

We are enclosing a link to our 2016 Annual Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding? legislative wrap-up, which you can access and print from our web site. In it, you’ll find an easy to read table so you can see how your legislators voted on our priority pieces of legislation.  If you need to find out what district you live in and who your legislators are, click here.

Thank you for all your support this session, contacting your legislators and sharing information important to our state’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens. 

Private School Tax Credits & Vouchers Undermine Public Schools

Like Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (a.k.a. vouchers), Arizona’s private school tax credits take money away from public schools and give it to private schools without accountability or budget controls. More than $100 million was diverted to private schools from the state budget in 2013 due to the use of these tax credits. That amount will increase because the tax credits are designed to grow substantially every year.

STO chartJust like vouchers, supporters of private school tax credits have argued that they make private school an option for students in low income families, but the facts don’t match. Three out of four of the tax credits for private schools have no income requirement at all for students receiving the scholarships.

Reforms are needed to make these credits more accountable, to control their growth, and to focus funds exclusively on scholarships for students who couldn’t afford private schools without financial help. There are four common sense reforms described in our recently released policy brief that would make private school tax credits more accountable and more targeted for students in need.

Click here to read about those reforms and more about the flaws inherent in the current system.

A Successful Juvenile Justice and Fiscal Policy Event

imageOur forum on juvenile justice and fiscal policy was an overwhelming success, thanks to a packed house of community members and our partners at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University. The energy in the room showed an intense interest in this issue and a desire to work together to continue to keep youth out of the criminal justice system, as trends show an overall reduction in juvenile crime statewide.

We thank our attendees and participants for contributing to a robust and meaningful discussion:image

Moderator: Hon. Pat Escher

Panelists: Hon. Liz Archuleta, Coconino Co. Supervisor

Hon. Colleen McNally, Presiding Juvenile Court Judge, Maricopa County

Tim Hardy, Director, Yuma Co. Juvenile Justice Center

Dona Marie Markley, Asst. Director, Arizona Dept. of Juvenile Corrections

For those unable to attend Thursday’s forum, a copy of the new Morrison Institute report, Juvenile Justice in Arizona: The Fiscal Foundations of Effective Policy is available online.

Arizona 3rd Worst in Cuts to K-12 Education 

Arizonans will not be surprised by a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showing that  Arizona is still stands out in cuts to K-12 education funding. Adjusting for inflation, Arizona is again third worst in the nation for cuts to state school spending per student from 2008 to 2016.  Only two states had deeper cuts than Arizona —  Alabama and Oklahoma. 

Even as the state’s economy improves, K-12 schools are struggling to help students succeed with far too many vacant teaching positions, outdated textbooks and technology, crowded classrooms, buildings desperately needing repair, and children who come to school hungry and sick.  Arizona schools have 14.9% less state funding per student this year than 2008.  The report highlights the link between state tax revenue and school budgets:  four of the five states with the biggest cuts in general school funding  — including Arizona — have also cut income tax rates in recent years. 

Voters, parents, business leaders, and community groups are still asking our elected leaders to chart a long term path for sustainable investments.  Governor Ducey is urging voters to pass Proposition 123 in May. This ballot measure would authorize larger withdrawals from the State Land Trust for 10 years to help school budgets keep up with rising costs.  It does nothing to restore more than $850 million in other funding that has been cut annually and leaves the state without a funding source for inflation after ten years.  The lack of funding for public schools will get even worse if state lawmakers continue on their path of cutting income taxes and growing tax credits.

2015-12-10 updated prop 123 chart