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Our lead ally in Arizona, Children’s Action Alliance (CAA), seeks to influence policies and decisions affecting the lives of Arizona children and their families. Their research, publications, media campaigns, and advocacy are aimed at a future where: all children have health insurance, a place to call home, enter school ready to learn and succeed, and no child is raised in poverty, hungry, or abused or neglected.

2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Declining

Approximately 42% (310,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% FPL (2021). This number represents a decrease from 50% (391,000) in 2016.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and/or Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% FPL than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs signed the state’s fiscal 2024 budget into law on May 11. The budget projects total spending from both appropriated and non-appropriated funds of $64.75 billion. General fund spending in the enacted budget totals $17.8 billion in fiscal 2024, including $14.9 billion in ongoing spending and $2.9 billion in one-time expenditures. This reflects a 14.3 percent increase in total general fund spending and a 3.4 percent increase in ongoing spending compared to fiscal 2023 enacted levels. The budget assumes base revenue growth (before tax changes and urban revenue sharing) of 2.1 percent. After urban sharing as well as previously and newly enacted tax reductions, net ongoing general fund revenues for fiscal 2024 are forecasted at $15.6 billion, a 5.0 percent decrease compared to fiscal 2023. Including a $2.5 billion beginning balance and after one-time tax rebates for parents of dependent children (with an estimated cost of $260 million) and other enacted changes, total resources are estimated at $17.8 billion.3

Key Revenue Sources:

    • Personal Income Tax (2.59%-4.54%)
    • State Sales Tax (5.6%)

Permanent State Funding Streams Dedicated to Early Childhood: Yes

In a 2006 ballot initiative, Arizona voters approved a tobacco tax increase dedicated to funding early childhood services. A First Things First state board and local regional partnership councils share the responsibility of ensuring that these early childhood funds are spent on strategies that will result in improved education and health outcomes for children younger than age 5.

Political Alignment: Divided

During the 2023 session, the state’s Senate and House were both Republican controlled. The state’s Governor was a Democrat.4

Types of Ballot Measures Available:5  Five

    • Legislature-initiated state statute: Appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Voter-initiated state statute: Earns a spot on the ballot when sponsors collect signatures according to the laws governing the initiative process in Arizona.
    • Legislature-initiated constitutional amendment: A constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Initiated constitutional amendment: An amendment to a state’s constitution that comes about through the initiative process.
    • Veto referendum: When someone in Arizona disagrees with a statute or legislative bill enacted by the state legislature, signatures can be collected to force the issue to a vote. If enough signatures are collected, the bill is placed on the statewide ballot.

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:6

2023 Policy  Progress:

In 2023, Arizona achieved significant policy wins in the field of early childhood development. These accomplishments aimed to improve the well-being and education of young children in the state through expanding family support service and increasing greater access to high quality child care, and supports for the early childhood workforce.

Governor Katie Hobbs has moved to open child care rule making, which has been on a moratorium for the last 9 years. The Governor has instructed the Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Department of Economic Security (DES) to broaden the types of afterschool, summer, and enrichment programs eligible for licensure by creating a separate child care license for “out-of-school time” programs.

Governor Hobbs is taking action to provide direct relief to families by issuing a one-time summer child care payment of $500 per child to cover the mandatory registration fees for children involved with the Department of Child Safety who participate in the Subsidized Child Care Program through DES. This includes children in foster care, kinship care, as well as children in families receiving in-home services who have recently participated in the child care assistance program.

The DES Division of Child Care implemented a rate increase for all DES child care providers through June 30, 2024. The reimbursement rate for infants will increase to the 75th percentile of the 2022 Market Rate Survey, and district rates will change to one statewide rate for each age group by care setting. These changes will bring most rates to the cost of providing care at the minimum health and safety standards.

Through March 31, 2024, the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) Division of Child Care will implement the Arizona Education Workforce Scholarship Program for parents of children ages Birth through 12 years, working in the fields of child care and publicly funded pre-k through 12th grade schools and publicly funded charter schools. Program eligibility is for a defined subset of education workers, including employees such as teachers, assistants, and other staff that provide direct care and ancillary support to children or whose critical job functions cannot be completed remotely.

Advocates helped block HB2227, a bill that would allow already unlicensed after school programs to receive CCDF assistance while avoiding the health and safety requirements that all other providers must meet. It would have created an unlevel playing field for providers—most of whom aren’t allowed to be exempt from licensure and oversight. Additionally, it would have created an uneven playing field for children—who all deserve to be in healthy and safe environments.

The Nurse-Family Partnership program received a $2.5M appropriation in the Arizona State budget.

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s lead grantee in Arizona, Children’s Action Alliance, is working to advance early childhood policies in several areas: 

Early Care and Education

Child Care

Preschool and Pre-K

Child and
Maternal Health

Early Intervention (Age 0 – 3)


Home Visiting

Early Childhood Infrastructure

Click here for more information on advocates’ policy agenda.

Arizona Advocacy Snapshot:

Arizona Allies Continue Fight Against Funding for Developmentally Inappropriate Online Early Learning Programs

Early childhood advocates in Arizona successfully blocked state funding for an online preschool program in 2020, and they are continuing to fight against additional attempts to fund these programs this year. While there is a huge need for expanded access to preschool in the state, advocates argue that online learning programs are developmentally inappropriate for young learners and a poor use of scarce resources.

Read More »


1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budgets, October 11, 2023.

4 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

5 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

6 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

7 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:


More State Demographic Data: