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.”
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.