El Cerrito, Calif - The First 5 Association of California has issued a statement in response to the voters' rejection on May 19 of Proposition 1D, which would have redirected $268 million annually from First 5 commissions to the state General Fund for five years, beginning July 1, 2009.
"Yesterday's vote was an affirmation that voters place a high value on programs that serve California's youngest and most vulnerable population," said Sherry Novick, executive director of the First 5 Association, which represents the 58 county First 5 commissions. "For 10 years, First 5 commissions have provided critical services for children 0-5. They have improved early child development, ensured that children's health care needs are met, and addressed the achievement gap in our schools by helping children enter school ready to succeed.? It's clear from the election results that the public wants First 5 to continue this important work."
Also in the wake of Proposition 1D's defeat, Evelyn V. Martinez, executive director of First 5 LA and president of First 5 Association, said local First 5's were ready to address growing needs in their counties. "In light of the state's budget crisis, First 5 commissions will continue to work with local partners to meet immediate needs resulting from the economic downturn and its impact on programs for the most vulnerable families we serve."
Just last January, First 5 LA joined with other First 5's to help shore up the state's Healthy Families insurance program, which experienced increased enrollment due to the economic downturn. "First 5 commissions throughout the state are focused on how best to address the growing needs of newly unemployed and homeless families in local communities," Martinez said.
First 5 commissions were established by Proposition 10 of 1998, which established a 50-cents per pack tobacco tax and targeted the proceeds to support the health and development of children during their first 5 years. Last year, First 5 commissions:
- Screened more than 125,000 children for developmental delays, and ensured those who needed treatment received it.
- Funded high quality preschool classrooms for more than 22,000 low income children.
- Provided access to health insurance for 78,000 children through the Healthy Kids program. Nearly one-quarter were under age 6.
- Provided dental services to 105,000 young children, from check-ups and fluoride varnishes to extensive treatment.
- Contributed more than $20 million to create 2-1-1 information systems throughout the state to link families to services quickly and efficiently, reducing pressure on emergency personnel and facilitating better use of county resources.