Advocates in Idaho continue working to encourage greater investments in young children, and are pleased to report several policy wins for young children and their families, both in this year’s legislative session and a special session in the spring of 2015.
Child Support. In 2015, lawmakers adjourned the legislative session without making updates to Idaho’s child support law, threatening millions of lost payments to families and making the state ineligible for federal funds for young children. A special session was called to bring Idaho into alignment with federal child support laws. As a result, the state preserved $200 million in annual payments that are made from parent to parent to meet household needs, and another $30 million of federal funding for early learning and children’s mental health.
Grade Level Reading. This year our public school budget was increased for the second year in a row. A set of bills also created a new literacy initiative that will help struggling readers in kindergarten through third grade. The new bills invest an additional $9.1 million in evidence-based interventions for struggling readers. They also require school leaders to work with parents to provide home-based strategies for literacy development.
Child Care. Lawmakers approved an increase in the subsidy rates for child careproviders, which amounts to an increase of about $40/child per month. Idaho does not have families currently on the waiting list to receive child care subsidies.
Foster care. Lawmakers this year made moves to consider serious changes to the state’s foster care program so that placement decisions are made with greater collaboration between foster parents, biological relatives, family courts, and caseworkers. A study of the foster care system has been commissioned from a legislative research office and an interim committee on the issue was formed.
Laying the Foundation for Future Achievements
Our state has a long way to go in building a strong system of support for our youngest children. A number of stakeholders are working to move us forward. In Idaho, early learning advocates are partnering with business and public agencies to convey the value of early learning to state leaders. Idaho faces an acute lack of access to quality early learning programs for our youngest, and state investments are non-existent compared to most other states. A coalition of advocates held ‘Early Learning Day’ on February 10th, 2016 which brought 24 hours of early learning activities into Idaho’s Statehouse, from a rally to presentations to the legislative education committees to hands-on learning activities with young children.
–Alejandra Cerna Rios
Policy Analyst, Idaho Voices for Children
(July 22, 2016)