Children’s Alliance members are engaged around the state responding to a recession of historic proportions. One notable effort is in Spokane, where a coalition of local groups has organized the Our Children First initiative to reduce the city’s 33 percent high school dropout rate.
The initiative’s backers recognize that a child’s successfully completing the 12th grade depends on all the experiences she had before that moment: from the first years of life through quality experiences in child care and after school. So, through a six-year city levy, Proposition 1 would invest $5 million a year to prevent child abuse and neglect, respond to instances of drug abuse and mental illness, and mentor them for success beyond the classroom.
One main objective of the initiative is to ensure children arrive in kindergarten ready to learn. Backers have noted that, for every 100 children in poverty in the area, just 27 are enrolled in an early-childhood education program.
Though the Children’s Alliance does not endorse local initiatives, Prop 1’s supporters include Children’s Alliance member organizations like Catholic Charities Spokane, the Chase Youth Commission, Partners with Families and Children, the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council and Volunteers of America. Children’s Alliance members also worked hard to gather some of the 13,000 signatures to place the initiative on the ballot.
Other supporters of Prop 1 include the Spokane Alliance, representing 28,000 members of area churches, non-profits, unions and educational associations; and the Spokane Education Association, representing 3,000 teachers and support staff in Spokane Public Schools.
It’s crucial to have creative local responses like this to the dismal economic outlook. We hope that come next year, all of Spokane’s children, ages 0-18, will have greater access to the tools they need to successfully complete high school.