VOICES for Alabama’s Children this week released a report on the well-being of the state’s children. This coincided with Alabama lawmakers approving historic investments in children’s care and education through the Education Trust Fund and General Fund budgets.
Collier Tynes, CEO of VOICES, advised that the historic investments in Alabama’s children can make tremendous progress. He emphasized the need to “support the adults who raise, educate, and care for our children.”
“Last year, less than a quarter of 4th graders were proficient in math, and 1 in 5 Alabama children were food insecure,” stated Collier Tynes. “These are not the outcomes of bad teachers or parents. These are the outcomes of stressed and under-resourced families, teachers, providers, and communities. Historic investments in our children can make tremendous progress in changing these numbers.”
Tynes applauded the lawmakers for the investments which included:
- $17.8 million historic state investment in quality child care programs;
- $22 million increase in First Class Pre-K, expanding access from 42 to 45 percent for four-year-olds;
- $1.5 million first-time funding for summer and after-school pilot programs for K-12 students;
- $20 million in provisions of the Alabama Numeracy Act;
- $10 million in flexible grant funding to under-resourced/underperforming school;
- $5 million mental health pilot program for youth and adolescents;
- $1 million increase for school-based mental health services collaboration; and,
- $4 million postpartum healthcare pilot program for new moms.
Several highlighted points that VOICES pointed out in this year’s data book report included:
- Child Care: There are only 1,855 licensed child care providers in Alabama to support the workforce of today and tomorrow. Lack of quality child care is a leading reason for decreased workforce participation. Further, babies need quality care and education as their parents work and their brains develop in pivotal years.
- Health: During a youth mental health crisis and increased family stress, there is 1 mental health provider available for every 923 Alabamians. The latest research shows that unaddressed childhood trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) lead to lifelong chronic health issues, along with significant barriers to educational achievement and financial security.
- Economic Security: While 16% of Alabamians live in poverty, 23.9% of Alabama children live in poverty (ex. a household of 4 making $24,750 or less). Further, 1 in 5 children in Alabama are food insecure.
- Education: Poverty leads to significant disparities in education. For Alabama 4th graders in poverty, only 37.9% are proficient in reading and 12.1% are proficient in math.
- Safety and Permanency: In 2021, 3,453 children entered foster care. While cases can have multiple causes of entry, 48% of cases involved parental substance abuse.
The investments made by Alabama lawmakers are targeted to help address these numbers.
“The state is making the right moves to do better for our children and support their families,” Tynes added. “However, we are far from finished. With a bold vision and an unapologetic focus on facts, we can see these numbers change. Most importantly, every child can be happy, healthy, and wildly successful.”
Read the full report here.