[Editor’s note: The 2019 session of the North Carolina General Assembly will get underway in earnest later this month and in anticipation of that fact, the state’s preeminent children’s advocacy organization, NC Child, published a policy agenda for the coming year – what it refers to as “The 2019 Opportunity Workplan for NC’s Children.” We’re happy to republish it here as a “must read” for those who seek to keep up with the debate in this critically important field.]
North Carolina’s legislators are back at work for the 2019-2020 “long session.” While the state’s policy-makers and budget writers face a host of challenges, they also have a shot at making a real difference in the state’s long-term outlook. NC Child has identified five leading opportunities for lawmakers to remove obstacles to the success and well-being of North Carolina’s children.
Expand Access to Affordable Health Insurance
More than 200,000 North Carolinians cannot see a doctor when they need one, because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to quality for federal support to purchase private health insurance. This puts a strain on families and our economy. Children thrive when their parents and caregivers are healthy. That’s why NC Child supports using available federal funding to expand access to affordable, quality health insurance for parents and other North Carolinians.
Early Childhood Education
Access to strong early childhood programs is critical for North Carolina’s working families. It provides children with the social and emotional skills they need to enter kindergarten ready to learn. It also provides parents with the ability to keep their jobs. Voters across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support increased access to high-quality early childhood education programs. NC Child recommends the following policy and funding actions to improve quality and increase access:
- Increase funding by $31.2 million to expand child care access to 6,000 new children;
- Increase funding for the AWARD$ teacher supplement program by $3.1 million to enhance the early education workforce; and
- Allow cities and counties to create their own financing districts to fund local investments in early education.
‘Raise the Age’ Funding
In 2017, lawmakers passed historic ‘Raise the Age’ legislation to keep communities safer, keep kids out of adult jails, and help youth get their lives back on track when they get caught up in the justice system. In 2019, lawmakers must allocate sufficient funding to implement this law. This includes funding for community programs, DPS staff positions, court staff, and operating costs.
More than $16 billion in federal funding depends on an accurate census count in North Carolina. Those funds are used for core programs including roads, first responders, school lunch, foster care, early education, and a host of other valuable programs. Unfortunately, 73,000 North Carolina children are in ‘hard-to-count’ neighborhoods, which means that they could fall through the cracks without a state-level strategy. NC Child recommends that legislators allocate $1 million to fund 2020 Census outreach activities, and to ensure that all children are counted.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 17 in North Carolina. According to the 2017 North Carolina Youth Risk Behavior survey, nearly 1 in 12 North Carolina high school students surveyed reported attempting suicide – and that number is 1 in 4 among lesbian, gay, and bisexual students. Yet suicide is preventable. North Carolina can equip public and charter school educators in the fight against suicide by guaranteeing K-12 educators get evidence-informed training on suicide prevention.
NC Child advocates plan to spend the 2019 session working hard to ensure that every child in North Carolina gets a fair shot at reaching her or his own potential. To support the organization’s efforts and receive weekly updates and alerts, you can sign up here.