Utah’s rapidly dropping child health ranking and the rise of racial disparities are top issues.
During the 2016 campaign season, Voices for Utah Children is meeting with Utah candidates for elected office and providing them with a Candidate Briefing Guide to help them understand the challenges facing Utah's children, direct public awareness and dialogue toward the needs of children over the course of their campaigns, and begin their terms of office prepared to enact effective policies to protect their youngest constituents.
“Utah’s elected officials play a central role in determining whether all of Utah’s children have the opportunity for health, safety, education, and economic security,” said Lincoln Nehring, President and CEO of Voices for Utah Children. “Candidates need to understand the needs of children and voters need to elect people who will invest in kids.”
The Candidate Briefing Guide lists several issues facing Utah children that candidates and voters need to consider:
Utah’s KIDS COUNT health ranking dropped from 7th in 2015 to 27th in 2016. Utah child health insurance and child death rates stagnated while most of the nation improved. Unlike Utah, states that fully expanded Medicaid improved child health insurance rates. The Utah Legislature has still not accepted Medicaid expansion dollars.
“All children and parents should have access to comprehensive coverage and health care,” said Jessie Mandle, Health Policy Analyst, Voices for Utah Children.
Zero-tolerance policies harm children—they criminalize minor infractions in the classroom and often lead to the school-to-prison pipeline, which funnels children out of public schools and into juvenile and criminal justice systems.
“We are committed to the belief that children should be educated, not incarcerated,” stated Lincoln Nehring, President and CEO of Voices for Utah children.
Early Childhood Education
A growing body of research shows that investment in high-quality Pre-K is the best way to help maximize the number of children who achieve school readiness by the time they reach kindergarten. For those who do not, expanding kindergarten from half- to full-day programs is a key strategy for leveling the academic playing field moving forward, especially for children from low-income families.
"The enthusiasm is there,” pointed out Tess Davis, Policy Analyst, Voices for Utah Children. “Utah has begun to make some key investments in early childhood education, but now we need to find ways to sustain this critical funding so that all Utah kids are getting the early learning opportunities they need and deserve."
Economic Security/Tax & Budget
“The fiscal choices Utah makes — about investing in schools, health care, child care, and other vital services — can help foster equal opportunity and lay the foundations for our future growth and prosperity,” explained Matthew Weinstein, State Priorities Partnership Director.
Eliminating sales tax earmarks would free lawmakers to invest in kids. Those earmarks divert funds away from children’s needs.
Weinstein added that “No family should be taxed into poverty as the price of educating their children.” A state Earned Income Tax Credit would protect low-income, working families from unfair taxation.
“As Utah becomes a more diverse state, disparities along racial and ethnic lines are widening,” said Lincoln Nehring, President and CEO of Voices for Utah Children. “We need to do more to correct these disparities and invest in Utah’s diverse future.”
Since 2000, the percentage of children of color in Utah has grown from 17 to 25%. Children of color have worse health outcomes, lower educational attainment, and are more likely to face school discipline and be involved in the juvenile justice system than Whites. They are two to three times more likely to live in extreme poverty.
The 2016 Candidate Briefing Guide is available at http://utahchildren.org/newsroom/publications/item/734-helping-candidates-do-their-homework
For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.
How can you be involved?
Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more. Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!
We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.
Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year.