A Glimpse at the 2017 State Policy Horizon: the Executive Branch

Part 1 in a 2-part series on State Policy Activities. Check back next week for a preview from the state legislature.

With the 2017 legislative sessions well underway, there are signposts on what lies ahead for policies related to young children. Governors share their hopes and priorities in their State of the State addresses and budget proposals, while legislators introduce new bills. According to our Alliance state and national partners, early childhood development continues to have bi-partisan support.  Here is a sample of what we’re hearing from Governors about the state policy horizon for:

Health and Mental Health.  Governors in New Jersey, Georgia, and Alabama recognized the importance of children’s social and emotional health, requesting funding for both screening and treating behavioral health problems.

  • Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) announced an additional $5 million for the statewide expansion of a pilot program that gives pediatricians training on how to screen children for behavioral health conditions and substance abuse issues.  The program gives pediatricians an immediate connection to a psychiatrist for consultation while the parents and child are in the office.
  • Governor Nathan Deal (R-GA) seeks to extend behavioral health services to very young children.   Currently, community behavioral health services are offered only to Medicaid and PeachCare members age four and older. Recognizing the importance of early examination and treatment, his budget includes $2.5 million dollars so children young than age four are eligible for behavioral and mental health services.
  • Governor Bentley (R-AL) promised to increase funding for low-income children and youth to access treatment for psychiatric, emotional and behavioral disorders.

Child Welfare. Governors in Montana, New Hampshire and Texas acknowledged a crisis in child protective services, requesting more funds for their child welfare agencies.

  • Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT) requested additional funding for Child Protective Services Workers, as well as needed legislative reforms to protect the most vulnerable children, those at risk for abuse and neglect.  He also asked the legislature to continue funding the full spectrum of mental health services, passed last session.
  • Governor Chris Sununu, (R-NH) – Requested funding to increase the number of workers in Division for Children, Youth, and Families, as well as $57 million to serve people with developmental disabilities.
  • Governor Greg Abbot (R-TX) declared Child Protective Services reform his first emergency item.  “We were right to inject emergency funding. But that’s not a lasting solution.  We need more workers, with better training, smarter strategies and real accountability to safeguard our children.”

Prekindergarten.  The New Hampshire Governor called for funding full-day kindergarten, while Governors in Montana, Indiana, Texas, Minnesota, and Alabama prioritized state-funded prekindergarten in their State of the State address.

  • Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT) proposed a $12 million preschool grant program, saying it is time to “follow the lead of 45 other states” and invest state dollars in early childhood education.
  • Governor Eric Holcomb (R-IN) said the most vulnerable children deserve a fair start, and calls for a doubling of the state investment in prek to $20 million.
  • Governor Greg Abbot (R-TX) gave a shout out to two Republican legislators who successfully championed new funding to boost the quality of the state’s prek program last year.  He then called the legislature to task for not sustaining the level of funding to support improving prek quality in the next biennium. 
  • Governor Mark Dayton (D-MN) said, “The best way to close the Achievement Gap is to stop it before it begins” and proposes increasing funding for quality child care, prekindergarten, and visiting nurses for teen parents.   
  • Governor Bentley (R-AL) declared, “If we can win football championships, we can make sure there is a Number One ranked Pre-K classroom for every four year old.”  He asked for an additional $20 million for prek, and for his agency leads to integrate the most successful components of the prek model into K-3 to sustain the gains.

For an in-depth analysis of what Governors are saying about education, visit the Education Commission of the States’ State of the State Addresses: 2011-2017.

Child Care.  Finding information on child care requires a closer look at Governors’ budget proposals, which have a mix of both good and bad news.  The California Governor is reneging on his promise to raise child care reimbursement rates, while the Governors in Michigan and Rhode Island promise to raise the rates.  New York offers a middle class child care tax credit, while Illinois increases eligibility for child care subsidies to low-income families.

  • Governor Jerry Brown’s (D-CA) budget proposes closing 14 percent of a $1.6 billion deficit by not honoring last year’s budget agreement to raise child care reimbursement rates. The California Child Care Resource and Referral Network’s infographic makes the case for honoring the multi-year agreement.
  • Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) asks for an additional $10.5 to increase reimbursement rates for child care providers by 20 percent. The increased state revenues will also allow Michigan to draw down unclaimed federal matching funds.
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) proposes a middle class child care tax credit.  Families earning between $60,000 and $150,000 will see their tax benefits more than double, on average.
  • Governor Gina Raimondo (D-RI) emphasized improving the quality of child care in her budget, including $1 million in enhanced reimbursements rates for high-quality child care programs that serve infants and toddlers. She also asked for adequate funds to fully implement the new federal requirements designed to improve continuity of care, like 12-month continuous eligibility and gradual phase-out of assistance as incomes rise.
  • Governor Bruce Rauner (R-IL) propose a $151.3 million increase to the Child Care Assistance Program to restore eligibility to families earning up to 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, as well as a $50 million increase to the Early Childhood Block Grant for FY18.  Unfortunately, Illinois has not passed a full budget since the Governor took office in 2015.

Check back next week for a glimpse at what state legislators are saying, and follow us on Twitter @4earlysuccess to hear breaking news on state early childhood policy when it happens.