Today, Voices for Children in Nebraska’s Executive Director, Carolyn Rooker, issued the following statement in response to Governor Heineman’s State of the State Address:
This legislative session, lawmakers must be future-thinking in their budget decisions – both on the revenue and spending side – and prioritize services that will put future generations on the path to success. When it comes to the difficult decisions our state lawmakers must make this year, we urge them to ask themselves the question ‘Is it good for all of our kids?’
As we move forward this legislative session, we will have a debate about our state’s budget priorities and we welcome that conversation. We want a Nebraska that puts ALL children and families on a path to prosperity.
Education is critical to the future success of our children and families. Nebraska’s investments through the years have resulted in the overall 4th best graduation rate in the country at 86%, but we are leaving some children and youth behind. When you look more closely, our graduation rates for children of color and low-income children are far lower. African American youth in Nebraska have a graduation rate of 67%, Hispanic youth have a graduation rate of 74%, and Native American children have a graduation rate of 60%. We need to invest in our schools in a way that closes the achievement gap so that no matter the economic status or race of our kids, they are educated and ready for the jobs of the 21st century.
We need to invest in the health of our children and families as well. Through the Affordable Care Act, we have an opportunity to extend Medicaid to low-income adults – an estimated 26,000 of whom are parents. Other states that have extended Medicaid to parents decreases the rate of uninsured kids by up to 40%. We also have an opportunity to improve our existing Children’s Health Insurance Program by restoring 12-months of coverage to children who are eligible. Making sure all of our children have the supports they need for their healthy growth and development puts them on a path for future success.
Our state budget must reflect that both health care and education are a priority. We don’t have to choose one or the other. Families and children need both to be successful in life, and our state and communities need both to be prosperous into the future.