It’s just kind of weird how much certain state lawmakers seem to mind preschool — or really anything that helps little kids. Consider Rep. John Kavanagh’s (R-Fountain Hills) suggestion that the state take $45 million out of a voter-approved fund for early childhood education and development to provide the bulk of the $65 million Child Protective Services needs to address a shameful lack of investigators and caseworkers.
Mind you, the Legislature helped create the CPS budget crisis by cutting into the budget to prevent and investigate child abuse and neglect.
CPS caseworkers have caseloads 80 percent greater than the national standard, which helps account for a 30 to 40 percent annual turnover rate. That lack of resources largely accounts for the CPS decision to simply not investigate 6,400 cases of abuse and neglect — and let the backlog of cases not investigated within the two-month deadline grow to 10,000.
So what does the head of the House Budget Committee suggest? He wants to renew the attack on the voter-approved First Things First, which provides money for quality day care, respite care, home health visits, parenting training and other services for struggling, low-income families. The Legislature swept the money from the program in 2009, but the state Supreme Court said the action flaunted the will of the voters. Lawmakers tried again in 2010 — this time with a ballot proposition. Voters rejected that effort by a 70 percent margin.
Instead, lawmakers had to content themselves with eliminating funding for all-day kindergarten and various other social programs that benefit children.
We hope Kavanagh will quickly drop this latest effort to pit children’s programs against one another and instead provide the money necessary to protect children.
If he doesn’t — that’s not just weird — it’s shameful.