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This week, Children’s Alliance takes a stand for kids and racial equity by endorsing state ballot measure Initiative 502. In other state news, a new report shows that child hunger has spiked faster than surrounding states as deep food stamp cuts are considered at the federal level, and the Governor is recognized for her achievements in early learning during her eight-year term. Last week, early learning advocates awarded Rep. Bruce Dammeier and Sens. Mike Carrell and Debbie Regala Crayon Awards for their outstanding work on early learning in Washington. And finally, one elder advocate says Washington needs a new licensed dental practitioner to extend quality dental care to underserved seniors and families.
The Children’s Alliance, a Seattle nonprofit whose members include major social services agencies, endorsed Initiative 502 in an effort to address the racially disproportionate impacts of current marijuana laws, said Jon Gould, the Alliance’s deputy director. Marijuana usage is similar between whites and African-Americans, but blacks are three times as likely to be arrested, charged and convicted of marijuana-related crimes, said Gould. Children “end up paying a terrible price for the disproportionate enforcement” when their parents’ criminal records hinder their ability to get jobs, public housing or federal student aid, such as Pell grants, he said. “The status quo is not working for children, particularly children of color. Public policy ought to move us further toward racial equity and justice, and Initiative 502 is one step forward to that,” said Gould.
In a stark reminder that the Great Recession wasn't just about dented up stock portfolios, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released data this week showing that the number of hungry families in Washington jumped 85 percent between 2008 and December of last year. That's according to the Children's Alliance of Washington, whose interpretation of the data suggests that more than 440,000 children in Washington - about 1 in 4 - "live in homes that struggle with hunger on a regular basis," the group said in a press release put out this morning. … An advocacy group, the Children's Alliance is using the data to bolster its argument that a cut to the federal food stamp program - as is being pushed by many Republicans in Congress as a means to reduce deficit spending - would be disastrous. The group notes that the state of Washington already made cuts to its food assistance program, and 11,000 families in Washington saw state food assistance cut in half July 1.
As Gov. Christine Gregoire nears the end of her eight-year run as governor, her leadership of early education work stands out as one her top achievements, defined by her elevation of the issue, investments in public preschool amid deep budget cuts and the state’s Race to the Top win. …. In 2006, she took one of her biggest steps by creating the Department of Early Learning as a cabinet-level agency to consolidate the state’s early learning work. … “Gov. Gregoire has consistently asserted that early learning is the foundation of education and critical to achieving the outcomes we want for all kids,” said Jon Gould, deputy director of the Seattle-based Children’s Alliance. “This is a key part of the governor’s early learning legacy and will be increasingly important as Washington state determines how we fund educational outcomes for all our children.”
State Rep. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, will be presented a Silver Crayon Award today from the First 5 FUNdamentals and the Early Learning Action Alliance for his efforts to help more children access early learning opportunities. Dammeier will join state Sens. Mike Carrell of Lakewood and Debbie Regala of Tacoma in a ceremony at 4 p.m. at the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, 1501 Pacific Ave. “Getting kids off to a strong start in their education is so critical,” Dammeier said. “I have advocated for smaller class sizes. I was specifically involved in some of the bills in the last session that looked at early education and preschool, and how we strengthen our preschool system.”
In a recent 18-month period, 54,000 dental-related visits to several dozen Washington hospitals consumed $35 million scarce health-care dollars. Part of the solution to create better health is for state lawmakers to create a licensed dental practitioner -- a new kind of dental provider that can enhance dental care the same way physician assistants and nurse practitioners have diversified the field of medicine.
There is one area of policy that may do more to create jobs and free revenue to fund education than anything else available to the next governor does. That jobs-and-education issue is fully implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health care reform law passed by Congress in 2010.
Clark County residents between 50 and 64 were the least likely to have health insurance in 2010. People in that age group may have been laid off or opted for early retirement during the recession. That group also rarely qualifies for Medicaid coverage, Avery said. The county's children, younger than 19, were the most likely to be insured. That's due largely to the state-subsidized Apple Health for Kids program, said Long Vue, health educator at Clark County Public Health. Just 1.3 percent of the county's children lacked health insurance, according to the census report. Some 36,981 children in the county had health insurance through Apple Health in 2012, according to state Health Care Authority statistics. That represents about 34 percent of insured children in the county.
The Children's Alliance, an advocacy group for children, youth and families, estimates that 440,000 children in Washington, or 25 percent, live in households where there's not enough food for everyone to eat. The number of kids qualifying for free- or reduced-price lunches at Washington public schools has increased from about 390,000 kids in May 2008 to about 470,000 in May 2012, according to statistics from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The new numbers are not surprising to Linda Stone, food policy director for the Children's Alliance. Since 2007, the advocacy group has seen more evidence of hunger, from a steady increase in kids qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches to rising demand at food banks around the state.
The share of people ages 19 to 25 who lacked health insurance fell to 27.9 percent, down from 33.9 percent in 2010, or about 1.6 million fewer uninsured people, according to the data from the federal study, known as the National Health Interview Survey. For the next age group — those 26 to 35 years old — the share of the uninsured rose, a further sign, Mr. Broaddus said, that the health care law was driving the decline among the younger group.
Congressional proposals to convert the Medicaid and food stamp programs to block grants to states accompanied by deep federal spending cuts would tear large holes in these critical safety net programs. More immediately, the House version of the still-pending 2012 Farm Bill would make deep cuts in the nutrition title funding the food stamp and school lunch programs. These proposed cuts would do little to balance budgets while exacting a great price from America's most vulnerable families.
A record 17.9 million U.S. households - 700,000 more than in 2010 - didn't have enough food at all times last year to sustain active, healthy lives for all family members, according to the USDA. This "food insecurity" affected a record 14.9 percent of U.S. households and more than 50 million people, about one in six U.S. residents. … The effect on children was significant. Nearly 9 million children lived in food-insecure households last year, and 845,000 were in households with very low food security. "These numbers show the impact of the recession has not gone away yet." said Jim Weill, the president of the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit anti-hunger group. "... It's one thing to say that wages are flat. But it's something else to say that people aren't getting enough to eat."