How did Children Fare in President’s Budget? – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

Lesley_Bruce_WEB.jpg(Ed. Note: Budget season kicked off last week with the release of President Obama’s FY 2012 budget proposal.  The document outlines the President’s vision for the future by setting funding priorities. Say Ahhh! asked Bruce Lesley of First Focus to share his thoughts on how children and families fared in the President’s budget.) 

By Bruce Lesley, First Focus

In a year when debates on Capitol Hill are focused on whether to spend or slash, we are heartened to see the President’s budget include support for programs of importance to children. A President’s budget is reflective of his priorities, and while we acknowledge improvements must be made to protect critical services for children and low-income families, we commend the President for his commitment to prepare America’s children for success in a global economy. 

Under the President’s budget proposal, key education programs experience significant increases. In fact, education and early childhood programs would see an increase of more than $4.03 billion dollars over fiscal year 2010 levels. Paramount among these recommended investments are resources dedicated to the Early Learning Challenge fund, an innovative new program that will assist states in unifying and streamlining their early learning and development programs so that no child falls through the cracks. In addition, the proposal increases funding for both Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, further increasing the number of children and families served by high quality early childhood programs. The President’s proposal also includes critical resources for programs such as Promise Neighborhoods and home visitation. We applaud the President’s recognition that investing in our children’s early learning and development isn’t just the right thing to do, but is one of the soundest investments we can make as a nation.
Furthermore, the Administration proposes $2.5 billion in mandatory funds over ten years to support a new child welfare incentive fund aimed at making improvements in the foster care system to prevent child abuse and neglect and to keep more children safely in their homes and out of long-term foster care.

While the President deserves credit for making the health and education of children a clear priority in his budget, he failed to address the national tragedy of 13 million kids living in poverty and the growing number of homeless children in America. It is disappointing that funding for income support and housing is reduced in the President’s budget.

Finally, a number of important children’s programs also were cut. For example, the President’s budget once again slashed funding for several key juvenile justice programs. Funding also was eliminated for Graduate Medical Education (GME) payments to children’s hospitals, a critical resource that supports children’s hospitals in training 40 percent of our nation’s pediatricians and 43 percent of pediatric specialists. 
Overall, the President’s budget outline is a stark contrast to the spending proposals recently put forth in the House of Representatives, which, if enacted, would severely compromise programs and services that benefit children and their families. While we all agree that difficult decisions must be made to address the deficit, many of these cuts are short-sighted and would have life-long effects on kids. If we are serious about reducing our long-term debt and increasing America’s productivity, we must ensure that we don’t balance the budget by cutting essential investments in our nation’s future – our children. 
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