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California’s Healthy Start Program Threatened By Budget Cuts

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Critical Program Links Vulnerable School Children With Needed Social Services

SACRAMENTO, CA – A critical state program that has helped hundreds of thousands of some of California’s most vulnerable school children succeed in school, may be eliminated if Governor Davis’ proposed budget is approved.
For over ten years, California’s Healthy Start program has worked to improve the lives of children and their families by supporting educational, health, and social service programs at or near schools. Healthy Start sites, located primarily in low-income communities, provide or link children in need with such basic services as tutoring, mentoring, mental health counseling, health and dental screening, and parenting education. Governor Davis’ proposed FY 2002-03 budget eliminates all future funding for the program.
“Every day in California, there are children who arrive at school with problems that get in the way of their ability to learn,” said Michelle Harper, Policy Analyst with Consumers Union’s West Coast Regional Office. “Healthy Start has been an invaluable resource that has helped connect children and families with the support services they need to succeed. But if Governor Davis’ budget is adopted, many of these children will fall though the cracks.”
A recent statewide evaluation of Healthy Start helped document its widespread effectiveness. Test scores for the lowest performing Healthy Start schools improved substantially, with reading scores increasing by 25 percent and math scores by 50 percent. Other positive changes like decreased drug use, fewer behavioral problems in the classroom, and greater parent involvement are common at Healthy Start schools. And Healthy Start is helping more kids get the medical care they need . The report documented a 50 percent increase in access to needed healthcare and a 50 percent reduction in the use of emergency rooms for non-urgent care.
Dollar for dollar, Healthy Start is a smart investment. For every state dollar provided to Healthy Start, an estimated four dollars in otherwise untapped local and federal funds is secured. As a result, Healthy Start’s $39 million budget brings in an additional $156 million in services to students and their families. There are approximately 160 Healthy Start sites throughout the state that are in the planning stage of their funding cycle with the state. If Governor Davis’ budget cut is approved, none of these schools will be able to secure operational funding from the state to bring their plans to fruition.
“It would be a tragedy if state financial support of this successful initiative were eliminated as the Governor is proposing,” said Harper. “We urge lawmakers to reinstate the funding for this important program so that more of California’s children can get a healthy start.”

Consumers Union