In this edition, Spokane’s growing community of Marshallese immigrants gather to save State Food Assistance, Gov. Gregoire signs a historic new health care law, and the Supreme Court challenge to the Affordable Care Act reignites a family legacy for one young man from Washington. In other state news, one reporter says legislators need to put their money where their mouth is for high-quality preschool funding. In national news, a new federal House budget has major, long-term consequences for kids.
The Senate budget proposes cutting the $13 million dollar [State Food Assistance] program entirely, while the House budget calls to cut funding in half. Lawmakers are currently in week two of a special session trying to agree on a final budget. "As it is they only get $4 per person per day in food stamps and cutting it in half means less than $2 per person per day," said Linda Stone with Children's Alliance. "Even in the best case scenario it's going to have a devastating effect on families in our community," she said. And, that's why Stone and Karen Morrison with Odyssey World International organized a rally Wednesday night. During the meeting, dozens of Marshallese wrote letters to lawmakers urging them to save the food assistance program from the chopping block.
Children in good hands | The Olympian | 03-28-2012
Washington state’s oversight of child care in licensed family homes ranked second in a national survey released last week. It’s reassuring news to the thousands of working parents who rely on child-care providers operating out of their homes here in South Sound and across the state. The study by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies ranked the state’s program standards tops in the nation and ranked state oversight third-best among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and federal Department of Defense.
Marcelas Owens, 11, stood at President Obama's right-hand side two years ago as he signed into law one of the most sweeping overhauls of America's health care system. Marcelas, now 13, still hopes the law to which he has dedicated his short life will live on, as its constitutionality is being challenged this week before the Supreme Court…. Marcelas, a seventh-grader from Washington State, was the youngest person at the table when Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. That day was the culmination of two years of work for the youngster, who, at the age of 8, vowed to carry on his late mother's legacy in health care advocacy. "I believe that when people die, they have their legacy and working for equal rights was my mom's legacy," Owens said. "So since she started working on health care, I did too."
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who was monitoring Tuesday’s court arguments closely, said if the individual mandate is struck down but the rest of the act is left standing, several elements will eventually fail. Among them would be the requirement that insurance companies offer insurance to everyone, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. “That doesn’t work if you have lots of people outside the system,” Kreidler said. Washington state currently has an estimated 1 million people without health insurance, Kreidler’s office said. If the Affordable Care Act is upheld, more than half of those will be eligible for some kind of coverage.
Preschooling Olympia | The Stranger | 03-27-2012
Way back in 1985, the legislature established the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), the Washington State companion to federally funded Head Start. It may be woefully underfunded, but for the children who it touches, the impacts are clear. The Bremerton School District estimates that it saves up to $3,000 a year on each child who goes through Head Start or ECEAP, just on the reduction in the need for "high intensity intervention" later on—services like special education and one-on-one instruction. Meanwhile, a study in Montgomery County, Maryland, found a $10,100-per-student savings in kindergarten alone, thanks to a 66 percent reduction in the need for special education for kindergartners previously enrolled in full-day Head Start. In Washington, the statewide savings could be enormous.
As a state, we must come together and realize that after slashing $10 billion in three years, we can’t cut our way out of this problem. For too long, we’ve ignored our values and thrown Granny to the wolves while making even deeper sacrifices in our children’s future. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Many low-income immigrant families, like (Harmon) Kobin's, face even greater challenges today, especially at home, where putting food on the table is a constant concern. The concern will only sharpen if the Legislature eliminates… the State Food Assistance (SFA) program, as many fear… the blow would fall especially hard on a number of immigrant populations, including Marshallese. Latino and Hispanic families are among the fastest-growing populations in the greater Auburn area.
It’s hard to imagine anything more disheartening than a child who is eager to learn and grow, but can’t focus in school because they are hungry. However, the fact is that numbers of hungry children in America have risen to 16.2 million in 2011, including 39,280 hungry children in Washington state. The February release of the local Communities Count report, revealed an even more shocking statistic: that nearly 50 percent of Hispanic households with children in King County are food insecure. The negative effects of hunger and food insecurity on the growth and development of children are clear.… The good news is that solving this problem is simple.
The governor's signature Friday on House Bill 2319 will implement key elements of the state Health Benefit Exchange established last year by the Legislature…. Washington is a leader in creating a clearinghouse for information and coverage in the federal law. Otherwise, the federal government will manage a generic program for states without a local exchange. … In a nation where millions of people do not have health-insurance coverage, the federal law, which is not without flaws, has made an impact in families that could keep young adults on their parent's policies to age 26. Signing HB 2319 into law keeps the state moving ahead on the basic consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, and makes the state eligible for another tier of federal planning grants. Similar funds helped get Washington's exchange organized and launched.
In my 42 years of experience as a teacher, I have seen lots of children who did not get a good start in their homes. Their language skills were lacking: their ability to focus, their understanding of cause-effect relationships, their number concepts, their use of tools, and good habits, for instance. Gov. Chris Gregoire is not going to force preschool children away from home. She wants opportunities available for children from working families, poverty situations, and unstable homes to have all the experiences that more advantaged children get.
Mr. Ryan’s [budget]… means a cut in food stamps of $133 billion over ten years, even though 76 percent of participating households include a child, senior or disabled person, nearly half of all recipients are children and 40 percent of single mothers use food stamps to help feed their families. A $13.4 billion cut in one year translates to as many as 8.2 billion meals lost for low-income people, more kids at risk of being underweight or developmentally delayed, worse educational outcomes and more stressed-out parents.