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California Must Step Up to Support Kids

OAKLAND, CA — The May Revision of the state budget released today contained some positive news, but doesn’t do enough to fulfill promises to California kids and secure the state’s future prosperity. Specifically, the budget proposal shows a troubling lack of commitment to our youngest children, and funding intended to promote kids’ health has been appropriated for the general fund. While K-12 funding has been temporarily bolstered by Proposition 30 and the requirements of Proposition 98, as any parent can attest, California’s schools are still dramatically underfunded.

The revised budget recommends a few additional investments in infant-toddler and preschool programs, in particular for young children with exceptional needs. However, the proposal doesn’t make good on last year’s promise to ensure every low-income 4-year-old has access to full-day, full-year preschool. Half of California children are born into low-income families and will experience economic hardship in their earliest years. For kids facing economic challenges, high-quality early childhood programs like child care and preschool, voluntary home visiting, health care, developmental and behavioral screenings and safety net programs can change their life trajectories.

There was good news on the federal front, when Congress on a bipartisan basis overwhelmingly approved a 23 percent increase in funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This amounts to a $450 million windfall in California. Despite a projected surplus, the state has swept those CHIP dollars into the general fund, rather than using the money to improve kids’ health care. Additionally, the budget proposal is silent on the critical issue of children’s oral health, despite a California State Auditor report indicating that more than half of the 5.1 million kids covered by Medi-Cal did not receive dental care last year.

“The diversion of the federal CHIP funding is like stealing from a child’s piggy bank,” said Children Now president Ted Lempert. “It’s not acceptable. The state’s budget priorities still aren’t in line with what Californians consistently say is their top priority — our kids. State leaders have to show they’re ready to walk the walk when it comes to making real, significant investments in the well-being of California children.”

Among the positive budget developments is the allocation of resources to implement a targeted supports and services program for foster youth on community college campuses. This new investment will ensure more foster youth attending college have their needs met and are able to succeed.

Despite the fact that schools are receiving a significant boost, the reality is that California’s school system is still extremely underfunded. Even with this desperately needed influx in the proposed budget districts are struggling to meet students’ needs.

Children Now calls on lawmakers to invest significantly more in high-quality programs to support kids’ development, health and education.

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