The year 2018 was one of forward-thinking for AACF. A major focus for our organization was developing a new five-year strategic plan to guide our work in the future.
Among the priorities in our new plan are a greater focus on race equity: what policies are disproportionately harmful to Arkansans of color, and what can be done to correct them; enhancing our capacity to do ballot-initiative work to pass major policy changes for children and families; and increased electoral advocacy work to elevate children’s issues with both voters and candidates for public office.
In preparation for the 2019 regular legislative session, we also developed new policy priorities for our work in the following issue areas: early childhood and K-12 education; tax, budget and family economic security; health care; child welfare and juvenile justice; and supporting children in immigrant families.
We rolled up our sleeves on several initiatives during 2018. We fought back against new work reporting requirements for the Arkansas Works program, as we anticipated thousands of Arkansas adults would lose health care coverage under the policy.
During the November midterm election, we worked closely with our partners to support the ballot initiative that would gradually increase the Arkansas hourly minimum wage level of $8.50 to $11 by 2021. The initiative passed with 68 percent voter approval. By 2021, the average cumulative increase in annual pay for the 300,000 workers directly and indirectly impacted by the wage increase is expected to be $1,520.
In juvenile justice, we worked with judges, state agency officials, providers and other advocates to develop a unified juvenile justice reform agenda for the 2019 session.
We also worked to educate the governor’s legislative tax task force on policies critical to the well-being of children and families, as the task force developed its recommendations for the 2019 session.
AACF reached an exciting milestone in 2018: Our satellite office in Northwest Arkansas, directed by Laura Kellams, celebrated its 10-year anniversary.
The future is looking brighter than ever for AACF. Our strategies, hard work and staff position us to be even more effective advocates in the coming years. To do that, of course, we will need your help and continued support.