Policy Resource

Arizona First Things First

Feb 9, 2016

Learn about First Things First, a program created in 2006 when voters passed a ballot initiative setting aside 80 cents from each pack of cigarettes sold in order to fund the expansion of health and education programs for children ages birth to five.

The program operates primarily at the community level, with 31 regional councils made up of local leaders who make programmatic and funding decisions for their areas. A statewide Early Childhood Development and Health Board oversees the councils and ensures funds are used effectively.

During the 2009 midterm elections, the Arizona electorate voted to protect funding for early childhood health and development programs by rejecting Proposition 302, which would have dismantled the states birth to five health and education program “First Things First.“ Had Proposition 302 passed, the state and local boards would have been terminated, and the $324 million remaining in the early childhood development and education fund would have been transferred to the state general fund on December 1, 2010. All future tobacco tax money collected would also have been deposited into the general fund and designated to be used for health and human services for children of all ages. In recent years, First Things First funding has continued to grow, with FY2015 expenditures totaling $148,019,813.

First Things First funds are being used to carry out several initiatives:

  • Kith and Kin programs - helps relatives, neighbors and friends caring for young kids in their homes expand their skills working with young kids, including classes on brain development and early literacy.
  • Offer technical assistance to child care programs in areas such as dealing with behavioral challenges or promoting healthy habits in children; and, incentives to keep the best teachers working with our youngest kids.
  • Provide support for child care staff to attend college courses and earn degrees in early childhood.
  • Quality First program - partners with almost 900 regulated programs in child care centers, homes and schools to enhance early learning in areas proven to help children thrive.
  • Summer Transition to Kindergarten - exposes children who may not have had an opportunity to attend preschool to the routines of school and introduces them to the skills they will need to be successful in kindergarten.
  • Student scholarships - helps more families and young children access quality child care and preschool.

As outlined in the 2015 Annual Report, First Things First demonstrated the significant impact it has made in Arizona communities:

  • 75,040 newborn kits were provided to parents before they left the hospital with information about healthy parenting prac¬tices and how to support their babys early learning.
  • 16,601 infants, toddlers and preschoolers received schol¬arships to access safe, nurturing early learning programs while their parents worked.
  • 31,090 screenings were completed to detect vision, hearing and developmental issues in young kids and prevent learn¬ing challenges later on.
  • 140,763 families have accessed early childhood information, training or referrals through Family Resource Centers.

Updated February 2016.

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