Early childhood priorities fare well in state budget

I’m very pleased to report that Alaska’s governor and legislators took great steps toward promoting school readiness by appropriating more funds this year to support young children and their families. Their growing awareness of the importance of these investments is due in large part to the efforts of many individuals, early childhood experts, and organizations around the state.

The State of Alaska’s FY 2013 budget reflects higher investments in many of the areas advocated by a coalition of Best Beginnings, Alaska AEYC, Alaska Head Start Association, AILPA, and thread. See the coalition’s 2012 public policy priorities for early care and learning.

This year’s successes weren’t happenstance. Legislators and state officials paid attention when they heard Alaskans of all stripes from all quarters saying the same thing: when we as a state do more to prepare children for success in school and in life, communities and the state all benefit.

  • Thanks to significantly increased state funding, many more families in Alaska will benefit from home visits through Parents as Teachers. Home visits by early childhood professionals strengthen families by offering them information and support.
  • The state budget also includes more funding to better equip adults who work with families – child care, medical and behavioral health providers – to recognize social, emotional, and behavioral problems in young children and to provide helpful interventions. Early recognition and intervention can resolve emerging issues before they become serious problems later.
  • Alaska has been rated in the bottom 10 states for the quality of child care. Two problem areas are high turnover and lack of professional qualifications among workers. New funding from the state will support an awards program that offers professional development and incentives to raise the standards and stability of the child care work force.
  • Additional funding was also included to support and expand Best Beginnings’ community-based early childhood partnerships and Imagination Library.

To everyone who called in, sent a public opinion message or postcard, or contacted their legislators or the governor, Alaska’s families thank you! And a heartfelt thank you to the legislature and Governor Parnell.