In this edition, you'll find articles about the Legislature's final budget, which includes nearly $800 million in revenue to prevent painful cuts to services for children and families. You'll also read an opinion piece by state lawmakers about the steps Washington has taken toward improving early learning, and about a new study revealing the devastating effects that poverty can have on kids’ brains.
A multimillion-dollar revenue package that increases taxes on
bottled water, soda, candy and mass-produced beer was approved by the
Washington state Legislature as lawmakers finished their work to plug a
$2.8 billion budget deficit. Just hours before the Legislature adjourned
the special session, the Senate passed, on a 25-21 vote, the measure
that makes up about $668 million of Democrats' nearly $800 million
revenue package. The House passed the bill Saturday, and it now goes to
Gov. Chris Gregoire.
While the budget agreement expected, passed last night, still
contains $755-$840 million in cuts, it stands in stark contrast to the
governor’s first budget proposal from four months ago. It takes a more
balanced approach. By using federal funding and increased revenue, it
avoids some of the deepest cuts the governor initially proposed.
Sens. Rosemary McAuliffe and Claudia Kauffman discuss how
Washington has been a leader in early learning for years. The Department
of Early Learning provides excellent preschool for many low-income
children through the Early Learning Childhood Assistance Program. And
the statewide Early Learning Advisory Council has also contributed
greatly to the state’s success in this policy area.
If you've ever taken care of an infant, you know the big leaps
they take every day. They roll over and then sit up, they scoot and then
crawl, they creep and then walk. "Goo goo, ga ga" turns into words like
"milk" and "blankie." Within a year, a baby goes from a tiny, helpless
being to a walking, talking little person. But kids in poverty? They
don't make that kind of progress, a new study shows.
Where will play fit into the effort to rewrite the No Child
Left Behind Act? Proponents argue the increasing focus on testing and
curriculum in kindergarten – and the idea this can become part of
preschool and pre-kindergarten – actually counters goals of early
education. It threatens a student’s chances at long-term success in
school and health, according to play-focused advocacy group The Alliance
Life can be hard for children in foster care. There's the
question of an unpleasant and unwanted split from the biological
parents, the potential shuffling from foster home to foster home, and
eventually, according to a comprehensive new report, the very real
possibility of homelessness when youths "age out" of the foster care
system at age 18.
Which captures your imagination most: the prospect of fighting
evil around the world or the chance to protect vulnerable American
children at home? America has become a lousy place to be a kid. Children
are more likely to live in poverty in the U.S. than any other age
group. That’s why news surrounding the details of the new health reform
law strikes me as hopeful.
The fresh-faced elementary-school children were nowhere to be
seen. There were no bright spring vegetables being harvested, no
celebrated athletes or actors for added sizzle. First lady Michelle
Obama's campaign against childhood obesity got down, dirty and wonkish
Friday afternoon with a gathering of administration officials reeling
off statistics and academics quoting from research papers.