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Voices Speaking

January 26, 2015

Budget Forum to Be Rescheduled

CT CapitolDue to the coming snowstorm, Connecticut Voices for Children is postponing our Budget Forum at the Capitol, originally scheduled for Tuesday, January 27.

We are hoping to reschedule the event for next week, or as soon as possible.  We will announce the new date as soon as we finalize our plans.

Stay safe and warm!


UPDATE: The budget forum has been rescheduled to Tuesday, February 3.  RSVP today!

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
January 26, 2015

Welcoming Our New Education Policy Fellow

Rachel Leventhal-WeinerWe are pleased to announce that Rachel Leventhal-Weiner has joined Connecticut Voices for Children as our Education Policy Fellow.  Dr. Leventhal-Weiner, who will coordinate the organization’s research and policy work in early care and K-12 education, brings extensive experience in educational research, including her work as Visiting Assistant Professor at Trinity College researching and teaching on education policy, college readiness and racial and ethnic inequality in education.

Connecticut Voices for Children has identified the inequality in opportunity for children in Connecticut as the defining challenge for our State.  Dr. Leventhal-Weiner will be a great asset to our team in advocating for more effective and equitable education policies.

Dr. Leventhal-Weiner received a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Connecticut, an M.A. in Higher and Postsecondary Education from the Teachers College at Columbia University, and a B.A. in Economics from Rutgers University.

Cyd Oppenheimer, Senior Policy Fellow at Voices for Children, who has worked primarily on early care and education, will now focus on child welfare and juvenile justice issues.

Issue Areas:
Child Welfare, Early Care, Juvenile Justice
January 21, 2015

Our Policy Agenda for 2015

Underlying our work at Voices for Children is the fundamental belief that all children, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, ability, and geography are able to achieve their full potential. What would it mean if all children in Connecticut were able to realize their full potential?  It would mean that all youth would graduate from high school ready for success in college or career. It would mean that employers could count on a well-trained workforce.  It would mean a dramatic reduction in today’s achievement gap, a sharp decrease in child poverty, an increase in median wages, and a healthier economy fueled by a growing middle class with increased demand for products and services.  By making a commitment to equitable opportunity for all children, our state could advance our overall economic standing at the same time as it advanced quality of life and child and family wellbeing. 

Our 2015 legislative priorities are guided by this foundational belief in equity and opportunity, and we strive to address racial and ethnic disparities in healthy childhood development, in educational opportunity, and for family success. We encourage policymakers to consider our priorities as we work together to achieve equity for all children in Connecticut.

First, we must ensure that children of all races and ethnicities have the chance for healthy childhood development. Implementation of national health reform has built on the successes of our HUSKY Health program.   This year we must support federal legislation to extend funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to protect the gains we have made in health care access for children, pregnant women and families.  On the state level, we support maintaining current eligibility and benefits for children, parents and pregnant women in the HUSKY program.  We support health reform initiatives, including the federally funded State Innovation Model, to promote access to timely, appropriate, culturally competent, and integrated care for children and families.  We will seek renewed legislative funding for independent performance monitoring of HUSKY. For children and youth to become healthy adults their behavioral health needs must be addressed without stigma, using evidence based methods that are developmentally and culturally appropriate.  We support policies that improve access for all children, including our youngest children, to a full continuum of behavioral health and substance abuse services and supports.

Second, every child in Connecticut should have access to high quality public education from cradle to career enabling all of our children to graduate ready for success in school, the workplace and society. We support the creation of an integrated statewide system of early care and education to increase access to and improve the quality of state-subsidized programs. We seek amendments to the state’s child care subsidy program that will avoid disincentives to work and ensure compliance with new federal requirements and recommendations, including establishing an eligibility period of no less than 12 months and allowing families earning up to 85% of the state median income to continue to participate in the program. Additionally, we recognize the importance of attracting and retaining high quality early childhood educators, and recommend developing a rate structure that will support salaries commensurate with the educational qualifications mandated for teachers in state funded child care settings.

We also support an educational system that values keeping students in the classroom where they learn best and that grants each child, regardless of race, education status, and socioeconomic status the right to an equal and high-quality education. We support an overall reduction in the use of exclusionary school discipline policies, with a focus on decreasing the disproportionate impact such policies have on minority populations. Voices for Children research shows that Black and Latino students are arrested, expelled, and suspended from school at disproportionate rates than their white peers. To reduce these disparities and increase transparency of this issue, we propose a uniform definition of “school arrest” and the mandatory collection of comprehensive school discipline data by public school systems. 

Finally, many children face barriers to success based on family instability, family income, race or ethnicity and/or town resources.   Our family economic security work promotes family friendly tax policies and a two-generation approach to family learning and economic attainment.  Recognizing that not all families are able to offer safe and nurturing homes, our child welfare work will focus on the following initiatives. All working families should be able to meet their basic needs.  To that end, we support restoring the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to 30 percent of the federal credit and by enacting a tax exemption for dependent family members targeted at moderate-income families and phasing out at higher incomes. Connecticut is one of only two states that do not adjust income tax to reflect the cost of raising children.

Developing healthy and permanent relationships is essential for young people in foster care – overwhelmingly youth of color –to become successful adults. Without secure and stable relationships, youth who grow up in foster care have greater difficulty achieving positive life outcomes. We therefore support legislation that would help youth establish permanent adult relationships, prevent youth homelessness, support youth transition to adulthood, and ensure social workers have the time to meet the needs of children in their care. With regard to social work capacity, the state should conduct a work load study.

For more information, see our policy priorities.

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice
January 14, 2015

Connecticut has yet to recover all the jobs lost in Great Recession

The latest jobs figures from 2014 are out, and they point to the same conclusion: 2014 was the best year for American job creation in a decade and a half. As employers added on average nearly 250,000 nonfarm jobs per month, the national unemployment rate fell from 6.6 percent to 5.6 percent as the economy finally recovered all of the jobs it lost during the Great Recession.

Connecticut, too, had a good year, adding 25,700 jobs from November 2013 to November 2014 (the most recent state figures available). The Nutmeg State, however, has yet to regain all of the 219,100 jobs lost in the Great Recession—a deficit of 25,000 still remains. Unemployment has fallen considerably—from 9.5 percent during the depths of the economic downtown to 6.5 percent late last year—but many of the unemployed had stopped looking for work, and have yet to reenter the workforce. In short, real progress is being made, but Connecticut has a ways to go.

Policymakers must keep this in mind as they approach this year’s state budget. Steps taken to get our fiscal house in order cannot come at the expense of programs that support families’ basic needs and the education and well-being of our children. To do so is to put downward pressure on a still-vulnerable economy and handicap our future workforce—both actions that hurt us all.

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Family Economic Security