Anyone who spends time with children knows that healthy children are better prepared to learn. Teachers will tell you that children who are hungry, ill or facing instability at home often struggle in the classroom. And, as a pediatrician who cares for children every day, I know that evidence backs that up.
When we talk about the importance of funding education, it doesn’t make sense to do so at the expense of the very programs that help children thrive and go to school ready to learn. Yes, basic education is essential – but so are basic needs. We need to look at the big picture, not just budget line items.
It is estimated that Washington will need $1.4 billion in this biennium to meet the costs of basic education for all children, a number that is likely to rise dramatically by 2017. But cutting programs that are essential to creating healthy communities and strong families is the wrong way to fund education. It is time legislators put our kids and communities first by ending special interest tax breaks and extending existing taxes that are set to expire.
Legislators in Olympia have many options to increase revenue, including extending existing taxes passed in 2010 that are set to expire in June. Those tax extensions alone would generate $630 million in the next budget cycle. Without revenue increases, our state faces even deeper cuts to programs that affect children and families.
I urge legislators in Olympia to increase revenue to preserve critical programs that provide for children’s health and well-being, including:
- full implementation of Medicaid expansion;
- investment in the newborn screening program;
- funding for the Apple Health for Kids Hotline;
- autism treatment with Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA);
- preservation of funds for Reach Out and Read;
- and funding for habilitative services.
What we invest in building the foundation of good health today is what we’ll stand on tomorrow. These and other programs are essential to give our children a strong start, and will allow them to go to school healthy and ready to learn. Make children’s health a priority by making the necessary investments.