State lawmaker wants to transfer funds from education to CPS - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

State lawmaker wants to transfer funds from childhood education to CPS

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Arizona has some serious problems.

The state ranks near the bottom in education, and when it comes to protecting vulnerable children, CBS5 recently reported that Arizona's Child Protective Services failed to investigate 6,500 child abuse cases.

State Rep. John Kavanaugh, R-Fountain Hills, is one of many lawmakers planning to push for more CPS funding when the legislature reconvenes next week.

However, the bill Kavanaugh is working on is already creating controversy.

Kavanaugh wants to shift more than $30 million a year away from First Things First and give it to CPS.

First Things First is the state's largest childhood development agency, which helps tens of thousands of Arizona children and families each year.

"Most of their programs are nice to have, not need to have," said Kavanaugh. "I'm not taking away from Arizona children - I'm setting priorities. I think Arizona children, who are in abusive households or households that are so dysfunctional they're neglecting them - they are the most vulnerable. It makes sense to prioritize their needs and give them more money."

First Things First Interim Director Sam Leyvas doesn't see it that way.

Leyvas agrees with Kavanaugh that CPS is in desperate need of funding for support and prevention programs that protect Arizona children, but he wonders what good can come from eliminating programs that basically do the same thing.

"In a lot of ways his proposal is effectively robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Leyvas. " Sixty percent of what we already do, funds the kind of programs Rep. Kavanaugh is talking about, so at the end of the day, there's no new money coming into the system where its desperately needed."

"We're already part of the solution," said Leyvas. "We want to continue to be part of the solution.  I just don't think this proposal fixes what needs to be fixed in meaningful way."

Kavanaugh told CBS5 that the state could be facing another budget crisis and there is not any "extra" money in the general fund.

"What limited money we have, we need to prioritize, and abused and neglected children are a very high priority," said Kavanaugh. "The Arizona budget is a basket case. We are still spending more money each year than we take in."

Lawmakers would not be able to transfer the funds on their own.

The state legislature would have to place the proposal on the November ballot and let voters decide.

First Things First receives its funding from an 80-cent per pack tax on cigarettes that Arizona voters approved in 2006.

The agency works with approximately 100 groups across the state, providing everything from subsidized childcare to pre-K programs.

Last year, First Things First received $132 million from taxpayers.

Kavanaugh wants to see 25 percent of First Things First's budget transferred to CPS.  

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