CFK Weekly - February 27, 2006
Editor’s Note: “The land of plenty," and yet more than 25 million Americans (and 9 million kids) rely on emergency food services each year. As income gaps grow, wealthy families can look forward to tax cuts while low-wage families face reductions in safety net programs. Despite all this, advocates and policymakers are working hard to make a better U.S. – just look at the pre-K through college initiatives, below!
D.C.’s School Voucher Program: Lessons Learned & Continued Questions
With the nation’s only federally-funded school voucher program well into its second year, those involved in getting this controversial experiment up and running say they’ve learned a lot. But it’s still too early to answer the really big question: is the program helping low-income students achieve? Susan Phillips takes a look
Teens Learn to Fight for Good Food
Alarming statistics on the growing numbers of overweight and obese children and teens are getting the attention of school boards, parents, and public health officials. This story, reprinted from Youth Communication’s New Youth Connections magazine, is by teen writer Natelegé Whaley, who looks at programs aimed at helping teens stay healthy.
Youth Leadership in Meeting Needs of Young Victims of Crime (Feb. 28)
How can teens help local agencies respond better to the needs of young victims of crime? The National Center for Victims of Crime and the National Crime Prevention Council will host a “webinar” on involving youth in helping their crime-victimized peers, on Tuesday, February 28, at 3:00 pm Eastern. To register, e-mail Joy Tsog at email@example.com.
Read Across America Day (March 2)
Every year on March 2, the birthday of children's author Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), the National Education Association celebrates Read Across America Day. Check out what’s happening in your area during this, the ninth annual celebration.
Consider the Children: When Families Leave Distressed Public Housing (March 9)
Moving from troubled public housing can help kids’ outcomes, but it alone may not be not enough -- children and families need support services and other help. This Urban Institute panel will examine the positive and negative results of relocation, effective community-building strategies, and good policies. Date: March 9, 9 - 10:30 am, at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC. Can’t make it? Free audio will be available online after the event.
Pre-K Now Conference Call: Supporting Social and Emotional Development (March 15)
This call will take place on March 15th, 2006, from 2:00 to 3:00 pm Eastern.
Free Youth Service Day Materials for April
Get help planning a local project, finding volunteers, and raising funds for this year’s National & Global Youth Service Days, April 21-23, 2006. Free Materials are available from Youth Service America.
HUNGER IN AMERICA
Hunger in America 2006
Last week, the largest and most comprehensive study of hunger to date was released – and the findings are stunning. As many as 27 million people, including 9 million children, get emergency food help each year from America’s Second Harvest. About 36 percent of adults served are employed. Many families who experience food insecurity say they’ve had to choose between buying food and paying for their utilities, rent or mortgage, or medical care. Food pantries and emergency service organizations rely heavily on volunteers to get their work done.
Still Closer Looks at the President’s 2007 Budget
Money matters. States and communities rely on federal funding to support programs ranging from school, pre-K, and child care to Medicaid, job-training, and countless others. Here’s the latest in a series of analyses of President Bush’s 2007 federal budget plan. A copy of the proposal is available online.
The Workforce Alliance says the 2007 budget proposal would cut more than $600 million (10 percent) from Department of Labor job training and workforce development programs, and over $1.6 billion (11 percent) from Department of Education vocational education, adult education, and select financial aid programs.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would receive $3.8 billion less than last fiscal year, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) would lose $67 million – including $35 million from programs administered by the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). Suicide-prevention programs would gain $10.5 million, but the children’s mental health program would be funded at 2006 levels, and an across-the-board 1 percent cut would drop all other CMHS programs to below the fiscal 2005 level.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report, “Cuts Grow Deeper Over Time and Will Hit States Hard,” looks at the longer-term impacts of the current proposal, and a sideline post-2007 plan for cuts that was not widely released. The full report includes a state-by-state impact analysis.
Ideas for Action
The bill expected to face a vote in Congress on or by March 13. You can reach your Senators and Representatives by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or on their direct lines, available here. Connect for Kids’ Action Central will continue to bring you action alerts, sign-on letters, and other opportunities to make your voice heard.
Skewed Benefits: If the Tax Cuts Are Extended, Millionaires Will Keep More than $600 Billion over the Next Decade
President Bush’s 2007 budget plan would make permanent most of the tax cuts enacted since 2001. That’s good news for the top 0.3 percent of households – those earning more than $1 million a year -- who stand to get about 20 percent of the total tax-cut benefits from 2007 through 2016. The top 1 percent of earners (1.5 million households today) would get about 29 percent of the benefit; by contrast, the bottom 60 percent of the population (87 million households) would see 14 percent of the benefits. To offset the revenue loss, domestic programs would take an even bigger hit from the tax cuts than they do in the budget plans.
The Impact of State Income Taxes on Low-Income Families in 2005
When it comes to tax treatment of the poor, not all states are doing the same job. A new study from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that in nearly half of U.S. states with an income tax, a family of four earning below the poverty line still owes taxes. In fact, the number of states that tax poor families of four increased from 17 to 19 in 2005. At the same time, some states are making strides in expanding Earned Income Tax Credits or raising the income tax threshold for families. Check the state-by-state fact sheets to see where your state stands.
Capital Income More Concentrated at the Top
CBPP has uncovered new, overlooked data from the Congressional Budget Office that show that the richest 1 percent in the United States received about 58 percent of all capital income in 2003, compared to 38 percent in 1979. This report looks at who received income from interest, dividends, rents, and capital gains from 1979 to 2003.
Breaking the Piggy Bank: Parents and the High Price of Child Care
Newsflash is it isn’t -- many families know this too well -- but a new national survey finds that child care is expensive. In fact, in 49 states, child care fees for two kids (of any age) exceed the median cost of rent. Low-wage families with very young children are especially hard hit. The report calls for more federal, state, and local investment in high-quality child care. (The 2006 federal budget has been criticized for failing to provide adequate child care funds for all low-wage workers.)
Funding the Future: States' Approaches to Pre-K Finance
Quality pre-K pays off for kids, families, and businesses, according to a growing body of research. But how can states fund sustainable programs? This report looks at the diversity of states’ approaches -- for example, some target only 4-year-olds; some fund only programs in public schools; some focus on education, others include services like health care and parenting classes -- and the strategies states are using to tap into stable funding sources. The report includes a list of “pros and cons” of specific funding streams.
Predictors of Child Care Subsidy Use
When it comes to meeting the costs of child care, many low-income families eligible for help don’t access it, and some states may not be doing enough to reach families not already involved in benefit programs. This National Center for Children in Poverty research brief looks at what’s known about the characteristics of families using public subsidies for child care -- and finds that, for example, families with children ages birth through 5 are more likely to use subsidies than those with older children, and African American mothers appear more likely to tap into child care help than mothers of other racial/ethnic backgrounds.
Keys to Learning: Using Pre-K-12 Standards for Better Schools
How can we decide what is essential to teach when we have too many standards? How can we be sure our standards really define what kids should know? How can we keep kids engaged? These are three of the six major questions this Web site answers in order to make standards-based schools effective. The site, from Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL), offers case studies and strategies to help align curriculum and teaching with standards.
Home-schooling in the United States
In 2003 -- the most recent year for which these data are available -- more than 1 million U.S. school-age children were home-schooled, a 29 percent increase from 1999. Similarly to previous years, 31 percent of home-schooling parents say concerns about school environment, safety, or peer pressure led them to home-school, and 30 percent cited religious or moral reasons. This report, from the National Center for Education Statistics, offers the latest on home-schooling demographics and curriculum trends.
Heads up: Breaking Ranks in the Middle
This Wednesday, March 1, the National Association of Secondary School Principals will release its new report, Breaking Ranks in the Middle, designed to give middle school teachers strategies to improve students’ academic outcomes and help young people get or stay on track for success in high school and beyond. Connect for Kids will cover the report next week.
By the Numbers: State Goals for Increasing Postsecondary Attainment
Are state officials putting their money -- and their measurements – where their mouths are when it comes to boosting postsecondary education among residents? This 50-state survey from Jobs for the Future finds that fewer than half of states specify measurable goals for increasing the proportion of their population with a postsecondary degree. Even those that do may not be doing enough to reach out to the public, and in particular under-represented populations, to promote an agenda of increased education, and to connect people to programs to make it possible to enroll and finish. The report concludes with concrete policy goals for states.
The Toolbox Revisited: Paths to Degree Completion from High School Through College
Efforts to boost college degree rates need to start in high school. As this Department of Education report reminds us, the academic rigor of high school classes is the strongest indicator of whether a student will complete a postsecondary degree. The report also examines factors in college that make a difference to college graduation rates -- including continuous enrollment, earning more than 20 credits in the first 12 months and, interestingly, studying math.
Rural Dental Dilemmas Growing
In many rural areas, it can be harder to find needed dental care because there are lower ratios of dentists to patients than in urban areas, and patients may not have insurance. Nonprofit clinics are working to fill in the gap, but many struggle to serve the large numbers of patients who need services. Dental health is not just about fighting cavities: poor oral health and gum disease can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes, and preterm labor.
Facilities in the Neighborhood Matter to Teen Obesity and Weight
The headline says it all: “Inequality in the Built Environment Underlies Key Health Disparities in Physical Activity and Obesity.” That’s the bottom line from a new study in the journal Pediatrics, which finds that areas with higher socio-economic status were significantly more likely than lower- economic and high-minority blocks to have one or more recreational facilities that enable physical activity. This is the first study to look at the disparity in access to recreation sites and the activity and overweight patterns in U.S. teens.
Also, check out Connect for Kids’ online Obesity Resource.
The “Stir It Up” Campaign Keeps Moving
In previous editions of the Weekly, we’ve reported on a new initiative from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Parents' Action for Children designed to replace junk food in schools with healthier options, and give kids more opportunities for physical activity in school and at home. Check out what they’re up to this month.
Keeping Your Teens Drug-Free: A Guide for African American Parents and Caregivers
According to the Monitoring the Future study, younger (8th grade) African American
teens are catching up to white teens when it comes to using marijuana: 13 percent of African
American and 14.5 percent of white teens report having used marijuana in the past year. This free guide is designed to give busy parents and caregivers the facts, ideas, and information they need to step in and discourage drug use in teens.
Medicaid and the 2006 Federal Budget Bill
The recently passed federal budget includes net cuts to Medicaid of $4.8 billion over the next five years and $26.1 billion over the next ten years. This six-page Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured brief looks at what areas of Medicaid will be cut and how families and states may be affected – including the introduction of co-payments and cost-sharing for low-wage families.
A Look at Effective Children’s Health Care Outreach and Enrollment (CA)
The Santa Clara County Children’s Health Initiative is an innovative partnership among community organizations that aims to provide health insurance to children in families with incomes under 300 percent of the federal poverty level. A new assessment of the effort finds that parents say the changes to outreach, applications, and renewal are helpful.
We don’t want you to stop your great work -- but why not use this week’s Read Across America Day as an excuse to give yourself a break with a good book. A profile of community action, perhaps?
Caitlin Johnson, sr. writer, and the Connect for Kids team