Arizona consistently ranks among the worst 50 states for child well-being, and year after year, despite ample research-based evidence on how to create an environment where all children and families can thrive, the state remains at the bottom in the country on quality of life for children.
With the 2023 legislative session, a record number of new legislators, and a new Governor, an opportunity to make children a priority was possible. In some cases, improvements were made. KidsCare, the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, expanded eligibility to include more low-income working families. A nurse home visitation program was created to serve first-time, low-income parents. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly supported ending the practice of “benefits mining,” which allowed the state to seize the social security benefits of children in the foster care system to offset the costs of their care. Thankfully, the K-12 Schools Expenditure Aggregated Limit (AEL), which caps the amount of already allocated funding that public schools can spend, was raised for the 23-24 school year, which only temporarily allowed the state to avoid a school funding nightmare that must be addressed permanently.
Many legislators introduced bills that could make important policy changes that impact children and families. Changes that would increase access to health care, improve the education system and provide families with vital support. Some of those bills became law, and many others were never even brought up for consideration.
Unfortunately, a disturbing pattern of attempting to silence the voices and will of voters continues to escalate. The budget process lacked transparency and was needlessly rushed. Lawmakers shoved through a $17B budget with little public or colleague input. The process took place in just two days, from introducing the budget bills to the final vote. With the budget bills failing to address the looming crisis created by the state’s universal expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA), and a permanent solution for AEL and school funding, the state will again need to make some tough decisions in 2024.
This scorecard summarizes the voting record of all current state senators and representatives on some of our key legislation in 2023. It cuts through their promises when running for office and shows how they voted on some of the most critical issues impacting Arizona children and families. We hope it is a valuable resource for all Arizonans to know which state lawmakers are for kids and who is just kidding.
Interim President and CEO