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Children's Well-being Only Partially Addressed In Proposed 2006-07 State Budget

Jan 10, 2006

SACRAMENTO, CA—Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed 2006-07 state budget, released today, includes commendable funding increases for children’s health and education programs, but they are not nearly enough to actually fix the problems, according to Children Now, a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization. Such critical children’s issues as the state’s inadequately funded education system, which ranks near bottom in the nation, and nearly one million children without health insurance, require immediate additional funding and administration attention.

“Fully funding solutions to the issues undermining the well-being of California children would not only be the right thing to do, it would be a smarter economic move by the state,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now. “Addressing children’s health and education issues today will cost California less than paying for the big future strains on public systems caused by not doing so.”

How key children’s education and health programs would be impacted by the proposed 2006-07 budget are outlined below.

What was proposed: The governor did not provide any funding for preschool for all children.

Shortcomings: The preschool age population is expected to grow by almost 6 percent over five years, yet the governor’s budget is silent on what investment we will make in preschool for all children. As a recent RAND Corp. study found, California would save $2.62 for every $1 we invest in preschool for all children. Hopefully the governor’s silence on this issue is temporary and he will support the Preschool for All initiative in June.

K-12 Education
What was proposed: An increase in education funding and additional focus on recruiting and retaining qualified teachers and principals in low-performing schools, providing additional funds for assisting students to pass the California High School Exit Exam and additional support for physical education programs in schools.

Shortcomings: While a step in the right direction, California’s school system remains near bottom of all states in funding.

After School Programs
What was proposed: Full funding for The After School Education and Safety Act; $428 million in additional funding ($550 million total) would dramatically improve the opportunity for all California children to participate in supervised educational and recreational activities during the critical hours after school. These programs are proven to increase children’s educational achievements, foster their development and keep them safe, and there is a pronounced need for additional access to them. Currently, 38 percent of K-12 students who are unsupervised after school would likely participate in an after school program if one were available in their area.

Shortcomings: No clear plan for assuring these dollars are equitably distributed and administered in a way that fosters high-quality programming.

Child Care
What was proposed: Cuts in child care by $114.6 million, based on rationale that fewer welfare recipients are going to work, and increased investment in the state’s child care licensing program, which helps improve the safety and quality of child care.

Shortcomings: These cuts will harm families trying to make the transition from welfare to work—the families that need child care the most. Instead of cutting funding, the state should be investing in reforming the system to ensure high-quality, safe child care for families in need. The increase in resources for licensing is a step in the right direction, but California still ranks far below comparable states in terms of the quality and frequency of its child care licensing activities.

Health Care
What was proposed: More funding to increase public awareness of and simplify the process for enrolling in low-cost and no-cost health insurance programs for children from low-income families.

Shortcomings: Of the state’s nearly one million uninsured children, approximately 400,000 are not eligible for these programs. This proposal does not make good on the governor’s campaign promises to provide insurance for the state’s nearly one million uninsured children.

“The reality,” said Lempert, “is all of the issues affecting children’s well-being are highly interdependent, and they all should be given top priority status by the state’s leaders if we are to solve them. It’s what Californians consistently say they want and what all our children deserve.”

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