Arizona CPS update: Lawmaker proposes redirecting education funds to Child Protective Services

PHOENIX - An Arizona lawmaker is trying to get creative when it comes to funding Child Protective Services after the discovery that the agency ignored more than 6,000 child abuse and neglect cases.

State representative John Kavanagh wants to earmark money to start kids in CPS care on a lifetime of learning.

But the problem for some educators is where the money to fund this plan would come from-- an early childhood education program called First Things First.

Kavanagh has proposed using $33 million, or 25 percent of their budget, specifically for kids under CPS care.

Opponents say it's not a solution.

First Things First was created by voters with funding from the state's tobacco tax. The program funds services to many low income families, including scholarships for daycare and services for healthcare and family support.

The funds are distributed to daycare facilities like Phoenix Day.

"It does allow them to enter school ready to succeed, at the same level as a child from a more affluent home who has had lots of opportunities," said executive director Karyn Parker.

Educators there tell us these funds are crucial. Many of the children who come to this daycare are low income and 15 percent are under CPS care.

About 20 percent of the kids' families receive scholarship assistance from First Things First to attend.

First Things First is against this proposal saying it "robs Peter to pay Paul."

But Kavanagh believes it's important to re-prioritize the money.

"We have to prioritize when you don't have that much cash. And these kids to me are our top priority, and I hope First Things First will agree," he said.

Kavanagh says the funds to help these children need to come from somewhere-- and it won't be the general fund. He says the money earmarked for CPS children would stay within the First Things First program and they would distribute it to families.

"Among those kids that are abused and have moved into foster care, let's make sure that those kids have a decent life, that they have money to join a little league or the Boy Scouts," he said.

Some educators are also against the plans.

"CPS definitely needs more funding. I don't think that undermining the system of care that is offered here and the access to resources that is available through childcare is the right way to go," Parker said.

Voters may decide whether or not to pass this proposal if it makes it to the November ballot.

Read the full statement from First Things First CEO Sam Leyvas below:

About 60% of First Things First's funds already go to the very programs Rep. Kavanagh suggests we ought to be funding:

Child care assistance, home- and community-based mentoring for families, increased partnership with caregivers (like parents and grandparents), etc.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a solution. Taking these programs away from one group of struggling children and families in order to help another group does not help more children. You actually have to spend more to get more.

For many vulnerable Arizona families, safety net programs are what keep difficult situations from becoming harmful to children. The state's elected leaders have a complicated situation that requires long term solutions.

First Thing First is already a part of the solution. Taking funds from programs that are already working to strengthen families may end up making a tough situation even worse for thousands of young children in Arizona.

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