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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.

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