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How Children Fared in California State Budget

Jun 27, 2006

The state budget, which is expected to be approved by the Legislature later today and then signed by the Governor, reflects solid support for children’s education, including preschool, but fails to broaden children’s health coverage.

“We are very pleased to see the Governor’s and Legislature’s support for expanding children’s access to quality preschool programs,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now. “Despite the recent defeat of Proposition 82, the state’s leadership recognizes the importance of starting all children off with the solid educational foundation that preschool provides.” A total of $100 million in new preschool funding is included in the budget, with $50 million earmarked for expanding preschool access in high-needs areas and another $50 million for improving existing preschool facilities or building new ones.

“Unfortunately, some legislators chose to play partisan politics with the issue of providing health insurance to uninsured children,” said Lempert, in reference to the deletion of the modest $23 million proposed by the Governor for local children’s health insurance programs. “Fortunately, the Tobacco Tax Act of 2006 will put the decision in voters’ hands in November.” The Tobacco Tax Act, an initiative which will appear on the November ballot, would help fund health insurance coverage for the approximately 800,000 uninsured children remaining in California by raising the state tax on tobacco products. “We know 80 percent of voters agree that all children should have access to health insurance,” Lempert said, “and the Tobacco Tax Act gives voters the chance to provide access to affordable coverage for all children.”

Other items in the budget favor children’s well-being, including a significant increase in K-12 education funding, which will raise the state’s per-pupil spending by about 7 percent. Given 40 percent of 8th graders in California score below basic reading level and 43 percent score below basic math level (according to Annie E. Casey’s 2006 KIDS COUNT Data Book released today), this investment is very much needed. The increased education funding combined with the four-fold increase in afterschool support due to Proposition 49 implementation should substantially increase the ability of many more California students to succeed in school.

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