SACRAMENTO, Calif., Jan. 30, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- At a time of uncertainty and challenging decisions ahead, leaders from First 5 commissions from throughout the state will journey to the state Capitol on Tuesday to speak with legislators on the importance of early childhood development and the state of declining First 5 revenues.
For the past four years, the First 5 Association of California brings together First 5 leaders from across all 58 counties to urge lawmakers to prioritize young children in policy decisions and advocate for early care and education, home visiting, developmental screening and other policies to ensure that children get the best start in life.
"Advocacy Day is an opportunity to bring county experiences to the Capitol on behalf of California's youngest constituents, who cannot advocate for themselves," said Moira Kenney, Executive Director of the First 5 Association of California.
There are more than 3 million children ages 0-5 in California. Of these, 50 percent are Medi-Cal births, 25 percent live in poverty, 14 percent reported for abuse or neglect at least once, and 8 percent have been identified with special health care needs.
For nearly two decades, First 5 has been a leader in providing essential and effective services for California's youngest children. In 1998, California voters passed Proposition 10, the ballot initiative that dedicates tobacco taxes to children's services and created First 5 commissions in every county. Last year alone, First 5 county commissions invested nearly $503 million towards the healthy development of children from birth through age 5 - the time when 90 percent of brain development occurs.
The First 5 Association unites all 58 First 5 county commissions around a common agenda focused on these key impact areas: family strengthening, early identification, oral health, quality early learning and system sustainability & reach.
Top on meeting agendas are discussions of declining First 5 revenues – a result of fewer people smoking in California, and the governor's budget which fails to fulfill child care promises made in last year's budget. The governor's budget proposal amounts to $226 million not invested in child care through plateaued reimbursement rates and the postponement of nearly 3,000 preschool slots.
By 2020, First 5 revenues are projected to be 40 percent lower than their peak in 2000, dropping to $400 million annually.
"California has tied essential children's services to unstable tobacco taxes," continued Kenney. "We need lawmakers to understand that First 5 programs and services are unsustainable given the way we fund children's services."
Tuesday's agenda includes more than 100 meetings between First 5 Executive Directors, the Brown Administration, and State Legislative leaders. More than 98 First 5 representatives will take part in this year's Advocacy Day, representing 39 First 5 county commissions.
"Today is about helping leaders in the Brown Administration and the Legislature understand that quality early education, family strengthening, and health services make the difference in a child's life," concluded Kenney. "We look forward to working with Governor Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, on the many challenges facing our youngest residents, and ensuring that California fully supports our youngest children."
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SOURCE First 5 LA