Thursday, July 21, 2011

Florida Turns Down Child Abuse Prevention Funding

Republicans in the Florida legislature are blinded by their contempt for the Affordable Health Care Act. The legislature turned down $50 million in funding to combat child abuse.

Florida lawmakers have rejected more than $50 million in federal child-abuse prevention money. The grants were tied to the Obama administration’s healthcare reform package, which many lawmakers oppose on philosophical grounds.

The money, offered through the federal Affordable Health Care Act passed last year, would have paid, among other things, for a visiting nurse program run by Healthy Families Florida, one of the most successful child-abuse prevention efforts in the nation. Healthy Families’ budget was cut in last year’s spending plan by close to $10 million.

And because the federal Race to the Top educational-reform effort is tied to the child-abuse prevention program that Healthy Families administers, the state may also lose a four-year block grant worth an additional $100 million in federal dollars, records show.

I have policy reasons to be against Race For the Top. President Barack Obama broke his campaign pledge of pushing for merit pay. Vanderbilt University's National Center on Performance Incentives did a study that found that merit pay doesn't improve student performance. Contrary to what Obama says, his education blueprint focuses greatly on testing. Part of the reason is No Child Left Behind is still law. Another reason is Obama is ideologically aligned with the education reforms of George and Jeb Bush.

Seeing how Obama's education proposals are similar to the Bush brothers, you would think that Florida Republicans would take $100 million from Race to the Top to prevent child abuse. You would be wrong. Republicans say that the Healthy Families program is the evil hand of big government.

State Sen. Joe Negron, who chairs his chamber’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, said he long has been philosophically opposed to Healthy Families, which he views as an intrusion into the private lives of parents.

“I believe in providing basic information to parents at hospitals and medical settings,” said Negron, a Palm City Republican. “I am not persuaded that it is a good idea to show up at a family’s home year after year giving advice and guidance. I do not think that is a core, essential function of government.”

Florida has a horrible history of the Department of Children and Families failing to stop fatal child abuse. We now have the Florida legislature making the situation worse by turning down child abuse prevention money. Next we are going to hear Republicans say that eliminating corporate taxes prevents child abuse. These people have a serious disconnect with reality.

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