Yesterday, First Focus held a briefing titled, Changing the Frame: Child Well-Being as a Guide for Budget and Policy. The event highlighted a panel of experts on well-being and education research at both the national and state level.
The first panelist, William O’Hare, co-authored Investing in Public Programs Matters: How State Policies Impact Children’s Lives, a complementary analysis to the 2012 release of an annual report by the Foundation for Child Development on Analyzing State Differences in Child Well-Being. Dr. O’Hare described his work studying 25 well-being indicators in each state and comparing them to demographic, economic and policy conditions. He reported correlations across each, including adult health status as the strongest condition associated with low child well-being outcomes in the study. Despite, correlations with demographic and economic conditions, O’Hare emphasized well-being correlations with policy conditions, because they are the most amenable to change. He reported a clear association between states with higher child well-being and higher tax rates.
Tom Gais of the Rockefeller Institute of Government followed with his organization’s research on state spending trends. Their analysis identified similar geographical clusters of areas with lower child-well being outcomes and a positive state level correlation between well-being and state expenditures. David Sciarra with the Education Law Center reported on their National Report Card for Fair School Funding. Sciarra highlighted report card findings that education well-being is positively correlated with progressive and high education spending. That is, higher per pupil expenditures that take into consideration areas of concentrated poverty. Chris Watney with the Colorado Children’s Campaign rounded out the panel with a discussion of their work in Colorado advocating for public investments to respond to the dramatically increasing poverty rate in her state.
First Focus included information on current federal funding for children’s program and a description of the Children’s Budget Act (S. 1369, H.R. 1602), which would require a separate analysis of children’s funding in the President’s annual budget request.