Notes from the Field...

PUBLIC POLICY & ADVOCACY NEWSLETTER – APRIL 2014


State Revenue Collapse Would Threaten Funding for Key Programs

Come January 1, Illinois could see a $2.3-$3 billion budget shortfall that’s being termed a “revenue collapse” for the massive impact it could have on funding for critical programs in education, health and human services. The shortfall is comprised of a nearly $1.6 billion loss of revenue projected by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) and at least $790 million in increases to mandated expenditures such as pension liability, debt payments and public employee contractual obligations.

United Way and all human service providers are very concerned about the possible scenario’s impact on services and families, and are urging state officials to act to prevent the revenue collapse.

More than $1 billion has already been cut from human services since FY ’09. Additionally, community-based providers have been burdened by the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, projected at $5.6 billion by the end of FY ’14. At the same time, the state’s pension costs are expected to reach $7.6 billion.

  

If legislators opt to make draconian cuts, the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children projects aggregate cuts of:

  • 14% cut to human services, including the Department of Children and Family Services
  • 18% cut to public safety
  • 13% cut to general services

The sector already has borne more than its share of the belt-tightening needed to improve Illinois’s fiscal house. Unless we maintain funding, programs such as child care assistance, early childhood education, afterschool programs, child protection services, violence prevention and a wide range of community-based services will be in jeopardy.

The stakes are high. Significant additional cuts don’t just portend a stalling of progress in foundational areas of individual and regional success, they mean losing ground in educational attainment, mental health, employment and safety. We all must ask our decision makers how they plan to maintain a stable and sustainable funding threshold for essential investments and services in Illinois. To date, no solution has been found to address this revenue shortfall.

 

Health Insurance Enrollment Rises across the U.S. and Illinois

  

Thanks to a last-minute surge in enrollment, more than 7 million Americans have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by the March 31 deadline. In Illinois, the latest figures showed 113,733 people signed up for insurance on the state’s Get Covered Illinois website.

Illinois was one of the country’s leaders in enrollment as it met 99% of its target enrollment in February. In addition, about 200,000 Illinois adults gained health coverage through Medicaid, thanks to the program’s expansion in the ACA. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Illinois’s coverage totals in early March.

With a flurry of efforts to get more Illinoisans signed up before the March 31 deadline, we expect even higher enrollment when HHS releases its next round of data. Enrollment Navigators were busy with back-to-back appointments and open office hours leading up to the March 31 deadline.

Coverage for those signing up by March 31 begins on May 1, while coverage for anyone who signed up by March 15 began on April 1. So far, the breakdown of the newly insured in Illinois looks like this:

The enrollment figures encompass the first five months of enrollment, which started off slow because of technical glitches on the federal website, healthcare.gov. Some people will have through mid-April to enroll, specifically those who tried but failed to enroll after the October launch. Battered spouses who previously could not receive tax subsidies will have until the end of May.

Learn more by watching videos about success stories in Illinois.

 

United Way Supports Changes to Community Schools Grant Program

Along with the Federation for Community Schools, we are advocating for changes to how the state handles 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) funding, which provides crucial support for community schools across Illinois. In addition, the funding fuels the work of out-of-school time programs that serve 54,000 students and their families.

The Federation and United Way are collaborating for our annual Lobby Day on April 30 to join forces for successful community schools. Serving as a hub for students and families, community schools bring together schools, nonprofit partners and local businesses to provide programs and services. These schools offer an environment where students and their families can reach their full potential.

21st CCLC grants are an integral funding source for community schools, yet the state’s current program structure poses threats to maintaining the work of community schools. The biggest threat is the state’s cap on grant cycles to two, says Melissa Mitchell, Executive Director of the Federation. Grantees awarded in FY ’10 and ’12 will roll off funding concurrently in June but won’t be eligible to reapply in the next round.

We support changes the Federation has proposed to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), which is developing a new 21st CCLC request for proposal (RFP). The policies outline below are allowed under Federal guidelines, will not compromise the state’s 21st CCLC audit or compliance, and have precedents in other states.

The new RFP should:

Support successful partnerships: Quality afterschool programs should be eligible to reapply for funding beyond the current 2-grant-cycle restrictions.

Acknowledge the ongoing need for 21st CCLC programs: Partnerships that have demonstrated an ability to improve academic outcomes should not lose funding.

Maintain level funding: Grants must remain consistent at Year 1/Cycle 1 funding levels throughout the entire grant period and should be brought back to the $150,000 maximum level. Additionally, funding should not fall below the federal minimum of $50,000 in Year 5.

Allow partners to build robust programs and services: Schools that receive other federal grants must be eligible for 21st CCLC funding. With a range of funding, schools can build robust, holistic programs that remove roadblocks to learning and academic success.

Evaluate eligibility and success with accurate data: ISBE should make every effort to make fair comparisons between the ISAT and the PARCC scores as Illinois transitions to Common Core Standards.

Join us on Lobby Day to advocate for these important changes to 21st CCLC funding.

 

PE Classes are a Smart Addition to the School Day

  

Momentum is building around policies that require students to take physical education (PE) classes during the school day. We support and have advocated for these changes, as recent research suggests PE improves test scores, behavior and overall health.

Recently, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) adopted a PE policy that triples the amount of time elementary school students spend in PE class and expands PE for high school students. The change, effective in the fall, means elementary and middle school students will get 2 ½ hours of PE a week. It eliminates a state waiver that let 11th- and 12th-graders opt out of gym class. All high school students will be scheduled for PE.

CPS announced the change in January, saying it hopes to become a national model and leader for embracing the importance of health and wellness among all children. United Way supports the CPS PE policy and encourages other Illinois school districts to expand their PE offerings as well.

In 2012, United Way advocated for the creation of the statewide Enhance Physical Education Task Force, which passed the General Assembly and became Public Act 97-1102. The Task Force promotes and implements enhanced physical education programs that can be integrated with a broader wellness strategy and health curriculum in elementary and secondary schools in Illinois. It met five times between December 2012 and August 2013 before issuing recommendations in its report the Governor and General Assembly.

We encourage ISBE to adopt the Task Force’s recommendations. While PE may be a staple in many classrooms, it’s been shown that K-6th grade students get only about 11 minutes of physical activity in a typical 30-mintue PE class. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 60 minutes per day of exercise for children ages 6-17 and 30 minutes daily for adults ages 18-64.

United Way continues to monitor legislation related to improving PE for students across the state:

 

Lobby Day: April 30

Our annual Lobby Day is fast approaching. But there’s still time to join our group of advocates meeting with top legislative and executive leaders in Springfield. Our efforts will focus on the impact of the state budget on human services. We also are coordinating with the Federation for Community Schools to advocate for community schools issues. Let Jack Kaplan know if you are interested in attending this year’s event.

 

Recent Research

EDUCATION

Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes, State Early Childhood Assessment Policies

Midwest Child Parent Center Expansion Project, Annual Report

Education Law Center, Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card

 

INCOME

Illinois Asset Building Group, The Game of Credit: A High Stakes Game That Perpetuates the Racial Wealth Gap

Corporation for Enterprise Development, 2014 Assets and Opportunities Scorecard

 

HEALTH

Voices for Illinois Children, Kids Count 2014: Child Health Matters

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, How Much Financial Assistance Are People Receiving Under the Affordable Care Act?