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Board Opposes Plan to Seize Early Childhood Funds; Says Proposal Ignores the Will of Voters

PHOENIX (October 7, 2015) – The First Things First Board has resolved to oppose any proposal by policymakers to divert its funding or alter its mission; and, urges every Arizonan to do their utmost to preserve early childhood education and health programs that promote school readiness for young children.

“Taken together, the ideas in the plan represent the elimination of everything Arizona voters achieved when they created the organization in the first place – local control, a focus on early childhood, and fiscal responsibility,” said Board Chair Janice Decker.

She was referring to a recent proposal by state House Speaker David Gowan and Senate President Andy Biggs to sweep existing FTF funds, seize a portion of future revenues and amend the mission of the agency away from early childhood. The two legislators have included this idea as part of a four-point plan to address a court mandate to pay back K-12 schools for funding increases tied to inflation.

The Board’s resolution – approved at its Oct. 6 meeting – points out that FTF is fulfilling the voters’ mandate to expand early childhood development and health programs that prepare more Arizona children for school success. It also highlights the organization’s impact on prevention and early intervention efforts at a time when other state funding for Arizona’s safety net has been drastically cut.

“These funds are making a difference for countless young children and their families,” said Board member Gayle Burns. “We’re talking about programs that keep kids safe and learning – like early literacy and language programs, services for children with special needs, quality early learning programs for low-income children, preventive children’s health services, and education for families, including teen parents and grandparents raising grandchildren.”

The Board resolution urges Arizonans to: inform and educate policymakers about the importance of early childhood to children’s future academic success and well-being; highlight to policymakers the impact that First Things First funds are having in local communities across Arizona; and, call on policymakers to reject proposals that threaten Arizona’s early childhood education and health system by diverting funding or altering the mission of First Things First.

Any efforts to divert FTF funds or change the organization’s mission would have to be approved by Arizona voters. In 2010, 70% of Arizona voters statewide rejected a similar measure.

“This is not a winning strategy,” said Board member Nadine Mathis Basha. “You don’t get anywhere with Arizona voters by telling them you think they were wrong to vote for something – twice.”

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About First Things First – First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, please visit firstthingsfirst.org.

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