Explore the Issues

This year’s platform was voted on by 2,590 community leaders from across West Virginia, after a 6-month vetting process. We believe these issues will reduce childhood poverty, help families, and create a better future for our state.

If you believe like we do, contact your legislator now and tell them about how they can fight poverty.

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Our Children’s Line Up of Issues

MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS

Responding to the Department of Justice report claiming that West Virginia is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we call on the legislature to pass legislation that would create a comprehensive mental and behavioral health plan for West Virginia’s children.

Contact Kelli Caseman at kelli@wvmh4kids.org to get involved in this issue.

What is the urgent need for your policy and how will your policy help fix that problem?
In June, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to Governor Tomblin, stating that after an investigation into mental health care for children in our state, they found West Virginia in violation of the American Disabilities Act. The reasons include a failure of multiple systems to collaborate, and as a result “agencies duplicate efforts, waste limited state resources, and provide fractured care delivery, causing confusion and harm to children and families.” This is unacceptable. Mental Health Matters is a group of advocates from across sectors and systems, working to ensure that all children, regardless of income or location, have access to mental/behavioral health services. West Virginia needs to create a comprehensive, strategic plan to do this. Everyone has a stake in keeping our kids healthy and in their own communities. We anticipate that the cost of the policy would only include the expense of creating a taskforce and the communication involved in creating a plan, such as meeting arrangements, travel, etc., so approximately $50,000 for FY 2016.

How does your policy empower children and families living in poverty?
The relationship between socioeconomic status and health is well documented, and income is one of the leading predictors of health disparities. Children living in poverty often lack access to healthcare services, even poor and near-poor children are more likely to be exposed to adverse experiences that can negatively affect their development–such as witnessing domestic violence, living with someone with a substance abuse problem, or having an incarcerated family member. Better access to mental health services for all children, regardless of family income or location, ensures that all kids can get the help that they need, without leaving their communities to access it.

Link to one pager.

Policy Chair(s)
Carrie Rishel – WVU- School of Social Work
Kelli Caseman

PROTECTING QUALITY CHILD CARE CENTERS

Child care centers are crucial for educating our children, creating jobs, and helping parents get to work.  Thanks to funding cuts and higher regulations, Child Care Centers are in jeopardy.  The state should not mandate 5-day pre-K and child care, which would hurt centers; counties should have the freedom to create their own models.  We oppose all efforts to reduce child care benefits that would effectively close these businesses.

Contact Jeanette Barker at jbarkerplaymates@aol.com to get involved in this issue.

What is the urgent need for your policy and how will your policy help fix that problem?
Quality child care centers are facing threats — from onerous government requirements and decreased reimbursement dollars. We need to work in a comprehensive way to make sure that child care centers are protected. Since the inception of Public Pre-k, WV has seen over 100 childcare centers close their doors!
The 5 day pre-k model has the potential of being the most damaging piece of legislation to Child Care Centers. The danger this change brings to our industry is threefold: 1) financial barriers as a result of decreased demand for services; 2) reduction in student outcomes as a result of lower quality services; and 3) reduced accessibility for students and families due to transportation gaps to our most at-risk families.
Current Policy: Beginning with the school year 2016 – 2017, programs shall provide an instructional day of 300 minutes for pre-k, inclusive of all required elements of the daily schedule, five days per week. The pre-k school calendar shall be offered no less than 160 instructional days per year. (300 minutes per day multiplied by 5 days per week is equivalent to 1500 minutes weekly)
During the last session the proposed legislation was passed through the both the House and Senate but was vetoed by the Governor. We need to again address this change in language allowing each county to have a choice of 4-day, 5-day, or mixed models to accommodate the needs of each community.
New language would read: Beginning no later than the school year 2016 – 2017, and continuing thereafter, early childhood education programs that are at least four days per week, include 1500 minutes of instruction per week and include a minimum of 146 instructional days per year shall be available to all children meeting the age requirement.
This change would keep the same amount of instructional minutes per week but with the choice of a four or five day model.

Summary: Much discussion has taken place over the last few months about the advantages of a 5-day model; however, as responsible administrators, we would be remiss in our duties if we did not give equal consideration for the model’s weakness, especially in the long-run as compared to our current model. First, without the need for out of school time care for pre-k children, our childcare centers will face what could become an insurmountable financial barrier? Secondly, quality outcomes at the pre-k level will almost certainly be reduced and as a result, next year’s data may show a reduction in school readiness. Thirdly, transportation barriers WILL result in decreased accessibility to services, a condition we have all fought against for so many years.
And lastly and perhaps most importantly from a global standpoint, this change will take away our parent’s and constituent’s freedom of choice for deciding when and where they will receive pre-k services for their children. Instead, we need to increase child care reimbursement and make sure that child care centers have the ability to operate.

How does your policy empower children and families living in poverty?
Benefits of four day programs versus five day programs:
Currently, our most at-risk students have opportunities to ride the regular school day bus to Pre-k in many rural areas. If Counties are forced to do a five day model, the day will have to look somewhat different, a shorter day to allow for planning, breaks, and home visiting. With the current four day model, teachers have Fridays for Professional Development, planning, assessment, and home visiting/parent meetings.
Four day Model: Research shows that the child-provider relationship is a primary determinate of student success, and higher gains for at-risk children. The 4 day model provides time for classroom teaching and Friday lesson planning, both state requirements, without sacrificing continuity of care and diluting the child-provider relationship
Five day Model:
Substitutes would be required daily to allow for teacher planning. Children are not familiar with the substitutes and this can disrupt the normal flow of the classroom, resulting in lower quality outcomes and higher costs for everyone.
Four Day Model: Allows additional time for extensive professional development opportunities such as those offered through WVDE that align directly with state preschool standards. Less time for teacher training opportunities, resulting in lower quality of teaching teams and lower school readiness levels
All else being equal, larger and less disturbed blocks of planning time will result in more defined and targeted lesson plans.
Five Day Model: Will result in smaller blocks of time lead to lesson plans being completed over multiple days allowing for thought processes to be interrupted and therefore plans can lack coherency.
Assessments can be completed more reliably when teachers have a large block of time to thoroughly review collected documentation when completing assessments.
Four Day Model: Provides time on Fridays: Focusing on assessments is crucial in making appropriate decisions. Allowing a larger amount of time in one day versus smaller amounts over multiple days increase reliability of data.
All which results in lower quality and perhaps the most important from a global standpoint, this change will take away our parents/families freedom of choice for deciding when and where they can receive pre-k services for their children.

Policy Chair(s)
Jeanette Barker – Playmates Preschools and Child Development Centers

3. RIGHT TO WORK IS WRONG

So-called Right to Work states have a 54.4% higher on-the-job death rate and workers in those states make $5,971 less per year in salary. Also, 7 of the 10 highest unemployment rates in the country are in states with these laws. We oppose efforts to pass Right to Work legislation in West Virginia.

Contact Josh Sword at jsword@wvaflcio.org to get involved in this issue.

What is the urgent need for your policy and how will your policy help fix that problem?
If the proposed “Right to Work” legislation passes, workers will see lower paychecks and less safe workplaces. We think the proposal should be Dead On Arrival. However, the new leadership is in favor of passing “Right to Work”, so the threat is real. If it passes, out-of-state millionaires and billionaires will be happy as they will pocket more money, straight out of our pockets. The cost to working families is huge!

How does your policy empower children and families living in poverty?
Quite simply, data suggests that if WV would become a Right to Work state, our wages will go down and our workplaces become less safe for all workers, not just union workers. Obviously, this will have a very direct negative impact on families.

Link to one pager.

Policy Chair(s)
Josh Sword – WV AFL-CIO
Ted Boettner – WV Center on Budget and Policy

SECOND CHANCE FOR EMPLOYMENT ACT

Thousands of West Virginians can’t find work because they have non-violent felonies on their records – some more than 10 years old. Every year 55,000 more West Virginians lose their driver’s licenses – not because of unsafe driving or DUI – but because they can’t afford to pay citations. Please support two bills – a Second Chance Employment for Employment Act and a Provisional Drivers Licenses bill – that would remove barriers for West Virginians who want to work and pay back their debt to society.

Contact Amber Miller at brweyez1983@gmail.com or Sara Whitaker at saranwhitaker@gmail.com to get involved in this issue.

What is the urgent need for your policy and how will your policy help fix that problem?
Help those who have paid their debt to society and worked their way back to being a productive citizen to seek gainful employment and provide for their families and to be able to apply for housing assistance! Create a pathway for first time non violent offenders the opportunity to petition the courts 5 years for felonies and 1 year for misdemeanors to have a clean record!

How does your policy empower children and families living in poverty?
Allows for parents and guardians the chance to gain employment to be able to provide and receive assistance for their families.

Policy Chair(s)
Mike Pushkin
Amber Miller

TAX REFORM THAT PROTECT ROADS, CHILDREN, AND SENIORS

Tax reform should guard investments and add a State Earned Income Tax Credit.

Contact Ted Boettner at tboettner@wvpolicy.org to get involved in this issue.

What is the urgent need for your policy and how will your policy help fix that problem?
Overhauling West Virginia’s tax system promises to be one of the biggest issues tackled in the upcoming 2016 Legislative Session. We urge legislators to: 1) ensure that any new tax proposal doesn’t jeopardize important public services and programs or increase taxes on low and moderate income families; 2) include accountability measures for tax breaks or credits; 3) consider new and alternative sources of revenue to pay for urgent needs such as infrastructure, education and human services; and 4) that new tax proposal avoids changes to revenue generation that would short circuit the democratic process and weaken the state’s ability to meet future needs.

How does your policy empower children and families living in poverty?
Less than ten years ago, West Virginia leaders embarked on a series of major reforms to the state’s tax system. These included the phase-out of the business franchise tax, reductions in corporate net income taxes, the elimination of the food tax, and other changes.
Despite promises at the time that tax cuts would pay for themselves, the results of these changes have been less than inspiring in terms of promoting economic growth and shared prosperity.
Despite promises that higher taxes would lead to more jobs, the number of West Virginians with jobs has declined by over 50,000 since the last reforms were enacted in 2007.
Despite promises of greater prosperity, poverty has only increased. West Virginia KIDS COUNT reports that the child poverty rate has jumped by 15 percent since 2008.
One real consequence has been year after year of austerity, although the wounds to the state budget have been self-inflicted. Revenue forgone by the state has also meant missed opportunities to promote education, infrastructure and investments in workers, children and families.
Today, comprehensive tax reform is once again on the agenda. The new leadership in the state house and senate have made it a top priority. As is the case with any new legislative initiative, this could present challenges and pitfalls as well as opportunities. It is important for state leaders to learn from the past as they try to shape the state’s future direction.

Link to one pager.

Policy Chair(s)
Rick Wilson – American Friends Service Committee
Ted Boettner – WV Center on Budget and Policy

JUVENILE JUSTICE: REDIRECT & REINVEST

WV is poised to save $20 million as the result of last year’s reforms.  But those savings won’t exist if new institutions are built.  These dollars should go to community-based programs proven to reduce recidivism rates and enhance life outcomes.  Communities can do it better.

Contact Jennifer Meinig at jmeinig@acluwv.org to get involved in this issue.

What is the urgent need for your policy and how will your policy help fix that problem?
West Virginia took important first steps last year reforming our state’s broken juvenile justice system. With your support, we were able to reform harmful truancy laws that locked kids up after missing just five days of school. And the Governor’s lauded omnibus juvenile justice reform bill passed that put the focus on serving kids within their communities instead of unnecessarily locking them up.
Yet, WV’s DHHR is now fast-tracking new out-of-home institutions, some of which will hold up to 70 kids from as young as four years old up to age 21. Shockingly, these facilities will charge up to $500 a day—costing taxpayers $182,500 a year for each institutionalized child. This gross misuse of funds is troubling especially when effective community-based treatment costs as little as $75 a day.
DHHR’s decision to pursue more out-of-home placement for youth with behavioral and mental health needs is also troubling in light of recent U.S. Department of Justice findings. The Justice Department found that WV is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act because it sends far too many youth to facilities instead of providing them services that would allow them to stay at home.
The state was projected to save $20 million as a result of last year’s juvenile justice reforms you supported, but these savings won’t exist if new youth out-of-home facilities are built. Now—more than ever—we need to redirect & reinvest these savings back into our kids futures.
To fully realize the promise of last year’s reform we must not build more institutions. Instead, we must adequately fund community-based alternatives where kids can find help instead of unnecessarily being sent away. Communities can better support our youth and do so at a fraction of the cost. Community behavioral and mental health treatment, job training and placement, mentoring, and restorative justice programs like Teen Court work if we fund them.
States from Ohio to Alabama have reformed their juvenile justice systems by investing in these programs. West Virginia should follow in their footsteps and make the commitment to change our punitive, expensive, and ineffective system into one that provides youth with the tools they need to succeed instead of setting them up for failure.
We believe in a future where all West Virginia youth can meet their full potential. Help us get there. Support Juvenile Justice Reinvestment. Communities can do it better!

How does your policy empower children and families living in poverty?
In West Virginia, youth incarceration disproportionately affects children living in poverty, especially minority youth. Incarcerating a child from a low-income family decreases a young person’s chances of escaping poverty when he or she reaches adulthood. And young people who spend time in out-of-home facilities are significantly less likely to finish school or to participate in the labor market.
An ever-growing body of research demonstrates how incarceration reinforces poverty. A study by Villanova sociologists Robert DeFina and Lance Hannon found that if the national mass incarceration trend had not occurred in recent decades, the poverty rate would be 20 percent lower today and five million fewer people would have fallen below the poverty line. And a National Longitudinal Youth Survey found that incarceration at age 16 or earlier led to a 26 percent lower chance of graduating high school by age 19. Moreover, incarceration creates a disadvantaged segment of workers who face greater hardships finding a job, as well as lower wages when work is found.
In addition, youth of color are disproportionally affected by the juvenile justice system. African American youth make up less than 4% of our state’s population, but comprise 14% of youth confined in juvenile institutions.
Keeping kids out of facilities helps our youth stay connected to their communities and families, and in turn, allows them to have a brighter future. West Virginia should empower youth and families by adequately funding community-based programs proven to reduce child poverty, reduce recidivism, and enhance life outcomes. Every kid deserves a bright future. Let’s use the $20 million WV is poised to save in ways proven to lower youth incarceration rates and enable our state’s young people to realize their true potential.

Link to one pager.

Policy Chair(s)
Jen Meinig – ACLU-WV
Kathy Smith – Self

STOP METH LABS

Follow the lead of some major pharmacies to require in WV all single-ingredient pseudoephedrine products sold to be conversion-resistant.

Contact Judy Crabtree at judy.crabtree@camc.org to get involved in this issue.

What is the urgent need for your policy and how will your policy help fix that problem?
WV is on track to have around 250 meth labs this year. Children are living in these homes being exposed to toxic chemicals and risk of burns. Children are being removed from homes and placed in foster care due to these clandestine meth labs. By requiring that all single-ingredient pseudoephedrine products sold in WV to be in conversion-resistant formulations meth cooks will be denied access to their preferred meth making ingredient, while ensuring customer access to conversion-resistant pseudoephedrine products at comparable prices.

How does your policy empower children and families living in poverty?
By reducing access of single-ingredient pseudoephedrine products that can easily be converted to make meth, there will be a reduction in the number of meth labs in WV, protecting children living in those homes. Additionally, innocent families who live near meth labs will not have to be at risk of having to evacuate their homes and losing all their personal belongings due to exposure to toxic fumes. Fewer children will be removed from meth lab homes and placed into the foster care system.

Link to one pager.

Policy Chair(s)
Dr. Brad Henry – Private Physician
Judy Crabtree – Kanawha Coalition for Community Health Improvement

INCREASING LOCAL FOOD ACCESS & PROFITABILITY

We propose three policy changes (a Cottage Food law, a food sourcing law, and tax incentive) that would put locally grown, healthy food in the hands of more West Virginians while simultaneously increasing market opportunities for local food producers.

Contact Jeremy Grant at jgrant.wvfma@gmail.com to get involved in this issue.

What is the urgent need for your policy and how will your policy help fix that problem?
The WV Food and Farm Coalition is proposing three policies that aim to improve market conditions for food producers and increase access of healthy, local food to West Virginia residents.
The proposed Cottage Food law will allow people to create foods in their homes and sale them at fairs, festivals, and other retail outlets. This will allow people to supplement their income and put more locally produced food in the market.
A second proposed policy is a local food sourcing law that will allow public institutions such as schools, hospitals, prisons and other state agencies to preference locally grown food during their bidding process; or the law can reimburse public institutions up to a certain amount for purchasing locally grown food. This policy will open new markets for food producers and put WV grown food on the plates of West Virginians.
Our third proposed policy will establish a tax incentive for food producers for the costs associated with harvesting, storing and transporting food donations. This policy will encourage farmers to donate their food and will put fresh, healthy food in the hands of the poorest residents in our state who lack access to good food.
These three policies have the potential to put more local grown, healthy food on the plates of West Virginians and increase markets for many West Virginia farmers and value added food producers.
The WV Legislature supports farmers and families. These policies open market opportunities for WV food producer, thus increasing their viability. These policies will also help improve health of children and families, which helps improve education attainment and workforce success.

How does your policy empower children and families living in poverty?
Poor nutrition and hunger greatly impact the educational attainment and workforce readiness of youth. Our proposed policies aim to increase healthy food choices at food banks and other food donation organizations and state institutions.As West Virginia children add more healthy food to their diets they will be better students and future members of our workforce.

Link to one pager.

Policy Chair(s)
Jeremy Grant – WV Farmers Market Association
Kristin McCartney – WVU Extension

AFTERSCHOOL FOR ALL!

Expand academically enriching out-of-school programs, and keep WV schools and playgrounds open and available for community use. Starting this year with a modest outlay to expand the state’s shared use program and turn dozens of West Virginia schools into an after-hours community center.

Contact Chris Kimes at ckimeshkfc@gmail.com to get involved in this issue.

What is the urgent need for your policy and how will your policy help fix that problem?
We must address our children’s need for creative educational opportunities and increase accessibility for healthy, physical activities in our communities. More than 100,000 children would join afterschool programs if available in their community. For every dollar invested, quality afterschool programs return at least $3! Afterschool programs are also proven to increase HS graduation, reduce truancy and obesity. Additionally, many of our children’s neighborhoods and communities have limited recreational space. Keeping school playgrounds open and school facilities accessible in WV opens the gateway to healthier and more connected youth & families. We want to address the barriers of community use of public facilities, support after school and summer programs as well as expand funding to ensure every WV child can access impactful out-of-school programs and make it possible for our schools unlock their playground gates and keep their doors open longer.
How does your policy empower children and families living in poverty?
Afterschool programs are proven to increase HS Graduation, Obesity, & Truancy among many other positive outcomes. Families and children who have access to afterschool programs will be healthier, have access to greater networks of support, and achieve higher levels of education for themselves.

Link to one pager.

Policy Chair(s)
Ben Shuman – Boys & Girls Club of Parkersburg

EXPAND BROADBAND ACCESS

We support an $80 million investment in broadband internet. Create jobs. Retain talent. Revitalize West Virginia.

Contact Natalie Roper at natalie@generationwv.org to get involved in this issue.

What is the urgent need for your policy and how will your policy help fix that problem?
56% of West Virginians lack access to high-speed internet. In the global economy, broadband infrastructure is as essential as utilities like water, sewage, and electric to individual and community economic prosperity. Individuals now depend on the internet for work, education, entertainment, healthcare, and civic participation. When given access to affordable internet, businesses restricted to local markets can expand their market reach across the nation and even the world. Communities that lack this foundational infrastructure are unable to attract the businesses and industries needed to create jobs and expand opportunity.
Sparsely populated areas often lack the financial incentive for Internet service providers to invest costly high speed broadband infrastructure. Therefore, state investment is needed to increase broadband access to all West Virginians. Senator Chris Walters middle-mile infrastructure bill would build a state-owned fiber optic network, giving West Virginia the fastest and most affordable fiber optic backbone in the US. With a cost of $78 million, this bill is estimated to create 4,000 jobs and increase the state GDP to $919 million just one year post completion of the network. After Chattanooga, TN made a similar investment, they’ve seen over $50 million in investments and they are now ranked the best place in the country to work from home.
The time to pass this legislation is now. While this bill got stuck in the Senate Finance Committee last session, we successfully got broadband on the agenda and started to educate legislators on the need for a solution. Senator Capito has named broadband as one of her top priorities. She serves as a strong champion for the issue and brings broadband to the forefront of the political agenda.
When we expand affordable broadband, we increase community access to opportunity, education, health services, and wealth. With a strong coalition, we can pass broadband legislation this session.

How does your policy empower children and families living in poverty?
As the Internet has become an essential platform for job-hunting and furthering education, those without access are finding the basic tools for escaping poverty increasingly out of reach. When given access to affordable internet at home, children are able to take advantage of online resources, tutorials, and research materials to perform better in school. According to a 2008 study by the Federal Reserve, high school students who have broadband access at home have graduation rates 6 to 8 percentage points higher than students who don’t. With access to affordable internet, families can take advantage of the expanded job opportunity networks available through online job listings. When families have access to affordable internet, they can complete a wide range of government services electronically faster, cheaper, and 24 hours a day. Broadband access empowers individuals to be able to work from home, expanding their choice of employers beyond their local offerings and to national and global companies. Further, broadband access creates wealth and opportunity for struggling communities by attracting modern businesses who want to locate near high speed internet infrastructure.
Senator Walters’ middle-mile bill would make internet both available and affordable. Lack of competition among Internet providers keeps prices high and is a big reason why many West Virginians cannot afford internet service, even if it is available. This legislation both expands broadband networks to communities that lack access and makes the network more affordable for providers to encourage competition. This bill is an important first step to increase competition, customer choice, and ensure internet is both available and affordable.

Link to one pager.

Policy Chair(s)
Natalie Roper – Generation West Virginia
Alissa Novoselick – Tamarack Foundation