Capitol Updates: Advocates fill the Capitol, Early discipline heads to Senate, and Healthy Kids survey still in question

speakupcaptolThis week we hosted the sixth annual Speak Up for Kids Day with partners Clayton Early Learning and Children’s Hospital Colorado. More than 200 advocates talked to legislators about the importance of early childhood experiences and good health in the lives of all Colorado kids. See our Facebook page for more photos of the event, and check out #SpeakUpCO on Twitter for highlights.

Each week of the 2017 session of the Colorado General Assembly we’ll bring you the latest news and analysis of legislation impacting the early development, health and education of Colorado kids. Click here for a full list of the legislation we’re tracking. Here are some highlights from this week:

HB 17-1210 (Lontine & Buckner/Priola & Fields) Addressing Out-of-School Suspension & Expulsion of Young Children

A high quality, nurturing environment in the early school years unlocks the potential of all of our children to learn about themselves and the world. This bill would update statute to offer better guidance to administrators regarding out-of-school suspensions & expulsions for young children. Read more about the bill’s bipartisan passage out of House and its next steps here.

Preserve the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey

On Monday, the Joint Budget Committee heard “comebacks” (where state departments are allowed to ask the Committee to reconsider one or more actions) from Office of State Planning Budget Director Henry Sobanet. One of these comebacks was in regards to preservation of the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS). Read more about the critical information HKCS provides and why the state should continue to fund the survey.

State Budget

The “Long Bill,” or the Joint Budget Committee’s budget package for state fiscal year 2017-18, is expected to be introduced next week. The Children’s Campaign will be following a number of items in the state budget this year that are important for kids. Read more about the provisions of the Long Bill we’ll be watching here.

Posted in KidsFlash, Outreach |


SAVE THE DATE: KIDS COUNT is coming!

Mark your calendars for the release of 2017 KIDS COUNT in Colorado! We’ll gather at 8 a.m. April 27 in the Old Supreme Court Chambers to release our annual report on child well-being in Colorado.  This year’s special focus will create a lot of buzz so we hope you can join us. Stay tuned to KidsFlash for more details.

Posted in KidsFlash |


In Colorado, Charter Schools are Public Schools

Amidst policy debates at the national and state levels, questions are being asked about “school choice.” Here in Colorado, the ability for students and parents to choose their best-fit public school has been a central tenet of our education system since the early 1990s.

Prior to the implementation of the Public Schools of Choice Act of 1990, students were required to attend schools for which they were zoned in their respective school districts. This legislation established open enrollment policies in Colorado, providing students the opportunity to choose to attend a school other than their “neighborhood school.”

In 1993, Gov. Roy Romer signed into law the Charter Schools Act, making Colorado the third state in the country to pass legislation enabling the creating of charter schools. Charter schools are self-governing public schools that are usually initiated by a combination of parents, teachers, and community members. Colorado charter schools are public schools. Unlike in some other states, they do not charge tuition or require assessments to “test in” for attendance. They are prohibited from exercising discriminatory enrollment practices. Though authorizing school districts grant charters additional autonomy and flexibility to design programs and instruction to meet the needs of students, charters are subject to the same laws as all other public schools.

In fact, former Children’s Campaign President, Barbara O’Brien, played an integral role in the passage of Colorado’s charter legislation, securing the Children’s Campaign as an ardent supporter of school choice.  Since Colorado’s first two charters opened in the fall of 1993, the movement has grown to include more than 230 charter schools, serving roughly 115,000 students in urban, suburban and rural communities.

In Colorado, charter schools will continue to be an important vehicle for school choice and innovation.

Posted in K-12 Education, KidsFlash |


Federal health bill gets worse as benefits are cut and Medicaid threatened

The U.S. House of Representatives withdrew the American Health Care Act before a full floor vote late today. It’s not clear what’s next for the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act as Republican leaders can’t find enough support within their caucus to pass it as it is. The latest version would dramatically restructure the Medicaid program, shift costs and financial risk to states and result in millions of Americans losing health coverage, according to an estimate last week from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. In addition to components of the original proposal that will negatively impact kids and families as well as the Colorado budget, an amendment to the proposal introduced this week, as well as ongoing negotiations in the U.S. House, have even more concerning implications.

A new report out this week from the Urban Institute analyzes the financial impact on each state of the Medicaid per capita cap in the American Health Care Act proposal. According to the report, under the proposal, Colorado would see a reduction of about $15 billion, or about 20 percent, in federal funding for Medicaid over 10 years. In order for Colorado to close that gap in federal funding and avoid cuts to the Medicaid program, the state would have to increase the amount of state Medicaid spending by more than 33 percent.

In addition to the proposal to cap the entire Medicaid program, the amendment would give states the option to choose a block grant for certain groups of Medicaid enrollees, including parents, pregnant women, and children, as an alternative to the per capita cap. Under the block grant, states would not be required to cover Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefits for children, which are recognized as the standard for children’s care and include a broad array of screening, preventive and treatment services that improve the health of kids. States would not be required to maintain cost-sharing protections, could impose enrollment freezes and caps, and could narrow Medicaid provider networks, all of which would negatively impact children and families.

In addition, under the block grant option, states would not be required to maintain coverage for parents, so states could reduce or eliminate parent eligibility. Children’s health and well-being depends on the health and financial security of their parents, and health insurance coverage improves parents’ health status, access to care and financial security. Providing access to health coverage for parents also increases the number of kids who are covered.

A block grant would further shift costs and financial risk to states. Funding to states under the block grant would not adjust for population growth or respond to a recession. It would only increase by the growth in the consumer price index (CPI) each year, which is a slower rate than growth in the price of medical care. Both the per capita cap and block grant proposals would dismantle Medicaid’s flexible financing structure that has protected children, families, individuals with disabilities and seniors for more than 50 years, during economic downturns or when Colorado faced increased health care costs due to natural disasters like floods and wildfires.

The latest negotiations in the U.S. House involve eliminating the Essential Health Benefits (EHB) package in the Affordable Care Act, which ensures that private health insurance plans include 10 categories of benefits, like preventive care, maternity and newborn care, and pediatric services, that are critical for children’s healthy development as well as for supporting the health of their parents. Furthermore, without EHBs, protections for individuals with preexisting conditions and prohibitions on annual or lifetime limits on coverage are meaningless.  Plans will no longer have to cover the services that people with preexisting conditions need, and the prohibition on annual or lifetime limits in the Affordable Care Act only applies to EHBs.

The impact of the American Health Care Act proposal on children and families, and the Colorado state budget, continues to worsen. Please call your U.S. Representative and urge a NO vote on this harmful legislation.

Posted in Child Health, KidsFlash |


Get to know us: Tara Manthey

taraTara McLain Manthey is our Communications and Outreach Director and manages our external communications, marketing and media relations. She also leads the Outreach Team, which coordinates our statewide It’s About Kids Network, social media engagement, advocacy activities, design and printing, website, and weekly e-newsletter, KidsFlash. She is past co-chair of the Children’s Campaign’s internal equity team, which is focused on infusing values of diversity, equity and inclusion throughout our work. Tara serves as vice chair of the national Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT Steering Committee. She is also chair of the Board of Directors for the Downtown Denver Expeditionary School, a Denver Public Schools charter school. Read more about Tara and her greatest extravagance on our website.

Posted in KidsFlash, Outreach |


Fast Fact: March 24, 2017

In 2015, more than 10,000 children under 18 in Colorado were victims of child abuse or neglect—about 8 out of every 1,000 children. The impacts of abuse and neglect during childhood can be lifelong; children who are abused or neglected are at higher risk for teen pregnancy, becoming involved in criminal activity and abusing drugs. To find the rate of child abuse and neglect in your county, please visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

Posted in Fast Facts, KidsFlash |


HB 17-1187 (Thurlow/Crowder) Change Excess State Revenues Cap Growth Factor

Summary: This bill would revise the current formula in statute, which caps the amount of revenue the state collects, by tying revenue growth to personal income (rather than just an arbitrary measure of population and inflation growth), a much more accurate indicator of the economy and a more reflective measure of state revenue. State statute currently limits revenue growth to the rate of consumer inflation plus population each year, and if the state collects revenue in excess of this cap, that revenue must be returned to taxpayers in the form of rebates.

Position: The Children’s Campaign strongly supports this bill, which would require that government growth be limited by actual economic growth, instead of an arbitrary measure of consumer spending. It would also allow policymakers to make budgeting decisions based on current economic conditions, including decisions about how to prioritize state resources to meet the needs of kids in Colorado.

Current Status:  The bill died in the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs on a party line 3-2 vote. Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives Bill Jaeger testified in support of the bill. Read his testimony here.

Posted in Capitol Update, KidsFlash |


SB17-065 (Lundberg) Transparency in Direct Pay Health Care Prices

Summary: The bill requires health care providers and facilities to post the prices they charge patients directly for common health care services on their websites.

Position: The Children’s Campaign continues to monitor this bill closely. Transparency in health care prices can be useful for consumers. However, information about health care prices is most helpful when it reflects the negotiated rates a consumer will actually be required to pay out of pocket, and when it is paired with easy-to-understand quality data. This bill would provide only list price information for health services, which will not be helpful for the 93 percent of Coloradans who have health insurance and pay negotiated rates. Transparency in list prices can actually lead to an increase in health care prices by encouraging providers to cluster their prices at the higher end of the price distribution. The bill would also not require the cost information to be paired with any quality data.

Current Status: The bill passed on a 2nd reading voice vote in the House with amendments and is now awaiting a vote on 3rd reading

Posted in Capitol Update, KidsFlash |


SB17-057 (Guzman) Colorado Healthcare Affordability & Sustainability Enterprise

Summary: The bill would direct a fee paid by hospitals into an enterprise fund, which would remove the fee from the state’s revenue limitation calculation, protecting health coverage expansions and ensuring that legislators are able to make decisions about how to prioritize state resources to meet critical needs, including support for education.

Position: The Children’s Campaign supports this proposal. The Hospital Provider Fee allows the state to leverage additional federal dollars for key health program improvements and expansions, including the ability to provide kids with 12 months of continuous eligibility for Medicaid, and to provide coverage for kids and pregnant women in CHP+ up to 250 percent of the poverty line. Establishing the fee as an enterprise fund will help to protect these coverage expansions. It will also ensure that legislators are able to make decisions about how to prioritize state resources to meet critical needs, and free up additional resources for K-12 and higher education and transportation, without raising taxes.

Current Status: The bill died in the Senate Finance Committee on a vote of 3-0 (2 excused)

Posted in Capitol Update, KidsFlash |


HB 17-1211 (Coleman/Priola) Disciplinary Strategies Professional Development for Educators

Summary: This bill would create the Discipline Strategies Pilot Program to provide funds to school districts for professional development for educators in the use of evidence-based, culturally responsive disciplinary training and developmentally appropriate responses to the behavioral issues of young children in preschool through 3rd grade. The pilot program will be funded with gifts, grants and donations.

Position: The Children’s Campaign strongly supports this bill, which would provide supports to educators on developmentally appropriate strategies for young children’s behavior in the classroom so that all children can reach their full potential.

Current Status: The bill passed the House on a bipartisan 41-24 vote and now heads to the Senate

Posted in Capitol Update, KidsFlash |


 

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