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“Quality must be the policy.”  That is one of the five tenets of Voices’ policy framework for very young children.  If we are going to invest in young children to achieve positive outcomes down the road, we must be committed to quality.  Indeed, the research shows that quality child care for disadvantaged children is what yields both personal achievements and government savings in the long term.  Poor child care can in fact be harmful.

In the 2011 budget submitted to the General Assembly last week, the Governor increased the number of PreK students to be served but did not increase the lottery funds to pay for it.  The per student allocation declined by $130 to $4169/year.  That amount is down from $4,410 in 2007.  To help fund the new 2000 slots, a vital support service for disadvantaged kids was eliminated – resource coordinators.  Resource coordinators, paid for by special grants given under defined guidelines, help low income families find the services they need for themselves and their children, including health, parent education, and referrals for job skills training and openings.  By supporting the family, the resource coordinators increase the likelihood of family stability and commitment to education when formal schooling begins.  Think of them as the equivalent of the graduation coaches funded in our middle and high schools to help children at risk to stay in school.

 This is lottery money, not general fund revenues.  Constitutionally, lottery funds can be spent only for PreK and scholarships.  Lottery income has remained strong and we have over $600 million in unrestricted reserves.  We can fund the resource coordinators and the additional students as well as help providers pay the full costs of the classroom.  There is no reason to shortchange this program.  Let’s keep quality in Georgia PreK!

Pat

As the Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy at Voices for Georgia’s Children, it is my job to be the organization’s chief lobbyist under the Gold Dome and convener of potential advocates for children throughout the state.

In this challenging fiscal climate, it can be a daunting task to climb the steps to the Capitol each day as we attempt to make the case that programs and policies that are proven to have positive outcomes for children should receive legislative support. Voices and our partners are all painfully aware that we have our work cut out for us as we work to secure additional pre K slots, support the provision of quality child care, revise Georgia’s outdated Juvenile Code, and ensure that children have health coverage.
But, as I contemplate the challenges that I expect to face when the General Assembly convenes in just a few hours, I am surprised, even shocked, to find myself somewhat exhilarated. Why?
In recent weeks, I have been pleased to discover a new energy among the child advocacy and policy community to work together and a new transparency exhibited by child serving agencies. After all, there is no cost and there is much to gain through collaboration. We know that children have better outcomes when all the organizations that serve them work together, and so I am hopeful that even in this dismal economy we can spend the next 40 legislative days crafting and passing policies to improve child outcomes.
I am also looking forward to the possibilities that are open to us as advocates as we embrace new technologies.
I’m hoping that this new blog actually provides us with the opportunity to have a conversation of sorts with people across the state who want to make a difference for kids. Throughout the session, I’ll be posting daily updates describing salient developments affecting children at the legislature and useful advocacy tips. My focus will be on the issues as they move through the legislative process, not on partisan politics. I won’t have the time, space, or energy to provide an exhaustive recap of each committee meeting or speech made on the floor of the House or Senate. There are plenty of places on the web that you can go to if that is your preference. Instead, I hope to use my space to share with you the most important actions and developments each day for kids and, when appropriate, tips on how to advocate effectively. My colleagues will provide commentaries, analysis, and, hopefully, a little inspiration from time to time. Please feel free to comment often!

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