I am deeply concerned about Arizona’s future.  Last week, I learned that cuts to critical funding for early childhood programs and activities may lay in the hands of Arizona voters.  First Things First is an initiative that dedicates a tax on tobacco products to be used on expanding early learning and health programs for children birth through age five.  Arizona voters approved First Things First in 2006 by a landslide. This demonstrated that Arizonans value early childhood as the foundation of a child’s learning and are committed to investing in children to be more successful in school and in life.

In November, Arizona voters may be asked to vote to dismantle First Things First.  This will effectively wipe out Arizona’s investment over the last three years in early childhood education and health programs.  The elimination of First Things First will impact literally tens of thousands of children and their families throughout Arizona.  This will also effect hundreds of jobs supported by First Things First funds.

Arizona has traditionally ranked in the bottom 20% on almost all areas of child well-being.  Even in prosperous times, State funding for children’s services has not begun to meet identified needs.  Funding from First Things First has helped to keep essential human services intact.  If it is eliminated, I wonder where will vulnerable children and families in our community turn for help?  The State has eliminated or significantly cut funds to human services and education.  Nonprofits struggle to secure revenue to sustain their programs.  The loss of First Things First will only create a greater disparity.  Recognizing the current economic crisis Arizona faces, First Things First has offered an interest free loan to the State $3,000,000.  To date this potential win-win proposal has not been accepted. 

I encourage all of you who are concerned about the children and families to voice your concerns to our elected officials and at the ballot box in November. Our children, families and the future of our community are depending on all of you! 

 To learn more about First Things First, visit their website at azftf.gov.

Advertisements