A Message from Executive Director Cecilia Zalkind
March 6, 2012
Make Young Children A Budget Priority
It’s that time of year again – budget season.
The annual spending plan says a lot about the state’s priorities when it comes to children and families.
Like most years, this year’s budget proposal, which is now under legislative review, brings some good news – and some areas that fall short.
First the good news. Governor Christie has proposed restoring cuts to the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps low-income working families afford the basics like food, housing, child care. The credit was cut a few years ago and would be restored to its previous level under the proposed budget.
Funding is preserved for NJ FamilyCare, which provides free- or low-cost health coverage to thousands of children and has been credited with the positive drop in the number of uninsured New Jersey children.
The budget also includes a $14.6 million increase to support rising preschool enrollments in New Jersey’s nationally-recognized preschools, which operate in 35 school districts. This is positive, but the state has yet to make good on its promise to provide high-quality preschool to 30,000 low-income children living in other districts, even though New Jersey’s school funding law mandates state preschool aid for these children.
Research shows that investing in quality preschool provides young children with the skills necessary to be “kindergarten ready” and is one of the most effective ways to close the persistent achievement gap. This benefits both children and taxpayers, as more children grow up to contribute to their communities.
It is time to begin making at least a down payment on the promise of preschool to the children in these districts.
Child Care Issues
To make matters worse, the significant funding saved through these changes – roughly $13 million in FY 2012 alone – has never been re-invested in addressing the child care needs of these families and those living in other parts of the state.
In these difficult economic times, safe, reliable, quality child care is essential for working parents to make ends meet. To cut this program and then fail to reinvest those funds into building strong early learning systems is short-sighted and damaging to New Jersey’s children.
ACNJ recommends that the state reinvest funds to build a stronger early care and education system that builds on our strong preschools, expands access to safe child care and improves the quality of that care.
It’s time to put the needs of our youngest children first. There’s no more effective way to do this than by making these children a priority in our state budget.
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