Did you have a good holiday? Got some well deserved r&r with your family and friends, and maybe, just maybe, managed to break your email and texting addiction for just a few days? I know many of you are probably still enjoying your vacation time, especially today, it being New Year Eve and all.
I often hear people question, “Why is New Year such a big deal anyways? I mean, it’s just another day.” Well, while it technically is just another day, for those of us in the advocacy world, it’s a a day to celebrate the victories of 2013, to breath a sigh of relief before jumping back into January goals.
As we transition from 2013 to 2014, we wanted to share our top five Wins for Children of the last year, so hopefully you can shake off some of the “Egg Nog Fog” for a few minutes and tune in.
1.) Kids are Safer
Starting January 1st, a new law will go into effect in Georgia requiring all employees working in any licensed childcare facility to undergo national fingerprint background checks. This extra layer of protection will help keep our kids safe, by helping to ensure that employees from other states will now have their records, that would otherwise have gone unchecked, looked into.
2.) Kids are Healthier
This one is pretty straightforward –– this year the number of covered children in Georgia has increased to 90%!
3.) Kids are More Educated
We took the liberty to roll a few different updates into one here –– hope you don’t mind! On top of the $51 million education grant –– one aimed at improving learning for the state’s youngest children –– Georgia was awarded on December 20, this year, as all the prekindergarten students in Georgia climbed aboard the school bus and get dropped off by their parents, they were going for a full 180 days of class. This is up from 170 days in 2012 and 160 days in 2011. The restoration of the full 180 days of Pre-K began when the first day of school started (as early as July 22 or as late as Sept. 2), and as far as we can tell for 2014 and future years, the Georgia Pre-K program will be spared school-day cuts.
Another exciting development this year was the launch of the Quality Rated Improvement System by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL). Quality Rated is a new voluntary quality rating and improvement system that any eligible child care program in Georgia can participate in. If you haven’t heard of Quality Rated, it is a systematic approach to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early education and school-age care programs. Not only was Quality Rated launched this year, but it has had tremendous success, reporting a total of 94,844 children enrolled in participating programs!
4.) Kids will be More Employable
Because of first needs-based HOPE scholarships, kids who otherwise may not have been able to afford school will now have an opportunity to go, and of course the more educated our kids are, the more employable they become.
5.) Kids will be More Connected
On May 2, Governor Nathan Deal signed The Juvenile Justice Reform Bill into law. The bill, which will take effect in 2014, substantially revises and modernizes provisions relating to juvenile proceedings and enacts comprehensive juvenile justice reforms. This new approach to juvenile law has the potential to have a positive impact on generations to come, and truly marks a turning point for children in Georgia.