Cox and Little Kids

Cox and Little Kids

72 Year Old Coot continues crusade on Kids 0-5

Dave Cox, 1st district state senator, continues his attack on the fund for First 5, a voter approved program which derives its funding from tobacco money. The heart of First 5 is the First 5 Commission, composed of a commissioner from each county. The program is fairly well funded, and provides a wide range of services to families with children aged 5 and under. There are about half a million new children under 5 each year.

The funding was approved by the taxpayers under Prop 10 in 1998. It is assumed the voters approved the measure for two reasons. First, it was a further disincentive to smokers, and second, it would provide assistance and education to small children and their families. But to be fair to Mr. Cox, he isn’t advocating ending First 5, he just wants the "surplus" of $200,000,000.

Cox wants to raid the program’s reserves for the general fund, which funds Healthy Families and MediCal. The reserves are maintained by First 5, and the First 5 Commission, who complain that the law, passed by voters, doesn’t allow for the funds to be diverted from program to the general fund.

First 5, through each county commissioner, provides funding and technical assistance in the following areas:

  1. School readiness; helps all kids catch up with the skills needed to start school. Kindergarten is no longer the first schooling, children must enter public school knowing basic skills.
  2. Quality Childcare; many children spend their first years in day care or preschool. Both parents have to work, and so their children might be "warehoused" while they are working. Thanks to First 5, children reclaim the learning potential of those years.
  3. Nutrition and exercise; childhood obesity is on the rise; the complications of poor diet and exercise habits are heart attack, stroke, and cancer. First 5 establishes those healthy habits in key first years.
  4. Health care coverage, and
  5. Healthy teeth; First 5 already helps with medical and dental needs for 0-5 kids in the state, but the funds weren’t meant to replace Healthy Families funding.
  6. Other on-going and planning projects which impact how the funds are distributed.

In Sierra County, First 5 has worked to improve services and broaden opportunities for our youngest residents. Sierra is funded under the "small counties" along with many of the other counties Cox represents. We like having that money here, and don’t want it to go away.

The public continues to strongly support First 5. The Commission distributes funding to programs throughout the state, all focused on the precious first years where so many of life’s patterns develop. Social science evidence is strong for the potential of those early years. Many medical and emotional problems begin in those first 5 years. Humans are not like horses; horse babies spring out ready for life, walking within moments. Because of our large brains it takes several more years for us to achieve that kind of readiness for life. Our brains continue to grow, but reaching their potential depends on nutrition, social and intellectual stimulation, and protection from disease and injury.

Money spent on the first few years will give more bang per buck than at any other time in life, and certainly much more than money spent on folks like Mr. Cox, who are nearing the end of their "use by" date.

We have to wonder why he continues his relentless attack on the fund. Not only did the public strongly support Prop 10 and the creation of First 5, as recently as last year voters refused a request from Schwarzenegger to raid the First 5 funds. Last month the senate refused Schwarzenegger’s designs on the fund. This proposal from Cox is similar, and Cox has raised this same bill before, and each time it has failed to get out of committee.

So, what’s up? Why is Cox so dead set on getting those funds?

We can guess there might be a couple of reasons. This is conjecture, of course, but let’s look at the evidence, Cox’s most recent press release:

"Cuts to critical programs for the state’s neediest families are being made," said Sen. Dave Cox. "Yet, First 5 Commissions continue to spend money on singing circles, yoga classes and fun activities while putting away billions in reserves."

Clearly, cuts to critical programs for the state’s neediest families are being made, but it is those same families that First 5 most often serves. We can assume that Cox intends that those critical, but un-named cuts are for services more important than singing circles.

Disregard that the activities Cox named, singing circles, yoga and group activities are important for early development. Those activities give teachers a chance to work on valuable language skills (singing circles), early development of self-management of stress (Yoga for Mom and Me) and socialization and bonding skills. But he’s not a social scientist and can’t be expected to know that. Actually, even little kids 0-5 know that, it’s unfortunate that First 5 was 67 years too late for Mr. Cox.

Regard instead what he appears to be pissed at: there is a government agency that is not only working under budget, but is saving money. In short, a member of the legislature, who can’t balance a budget, is mad at someone because they can.

Indeed, Cox wants to take the money from little poor kids to give to little poor kids. First 5 has already provided Healthy Families money for 200,000 kids; providing money for health services is a part of what First 5 can do. Apparently he’s bothered by the thought of all those poor little kids having money, so instead of taxing rich corporations to fund the state’s Healthy Family obligations, he’d feel better if it came from other poor kids. Mr. Cox would be shocked to discover that Sierra County Prospect has nearly $200.00 in surplus funding, something we like to call "principle"; he probably feels we should give some to the Mountain Messenger.

Cox’s bill is largely dead, but First 5 still has money, and the state is still broke, so the reserve continues to be at risk. To see Cox’s masterpiece, go HERE

To support First 5, go HERE

From the First 5 Association January briefing:

The Governor proposed to place Prop 10 on the June ballot to:

  • Divert $242 million each year for 5 years from Prop 10 to the state General Fund
  • Sweep $308 million from the State Commission reserves in 2010-11
  • In 2010-11, the Prop 10 funds are slated for developmental services ($200 million) and child welfare services ($350 million)
  • The 2010-11 budget further assumes a voluntary contribution of $55.6 million for the Healthy Families Program and $50 million for the Early Start program.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) recommends going above and beyond the Governor’s proposal to make the diversion permanent and to include the voluntary contribution as part of the ballot initiative to ensure it is collected. The LAO argues that Prop 10 funds were meant to enhance and expand core services but now the funds are needed for the core services themselves.

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