Press Releases

Study: State Spending on Children Uses ‘Pay Me Now or Pay Me – Much More – Later’ Model

Press release from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth; June 6, 2012:

Tennessee can benefit when citizens understand how the public sector can help to maintain our way of life through careful stewardship of our public dollars. The latest edition of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth’s KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee focuses not just on measuring child well-being but also on how we as Tennesseans are spending our funds to improve the lives of our children.

The state budget is the collective tool for planning the future and reflects our priorities. Tennessee tracks actual expenditures on services for children, and leads the way in evaluating the continuing effectiveness of public spending The report looks at expenditures over the past five fiscal years, categorizing expenditures by funding source, primary outcome, service delivery location and programmatic focus. Twenty-five state agencies serving children submitted data on their expenditures for services for children.

“We have learned important lessons from this process, said Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, which compiled the report. “Universal prevention services have the lowest per child cost and, through their ability to prevent greater downstream costs, have the greatest cost-benefit potential. However, as a category they received the least funding.

“Intensive intervention services to children with the greatest needs had the highest per-child costs, reflecting the ‘pay me now or pay me – much more – later’ rule.”

The state’s reliance on federal funding to care for Tennessee children is evident from the report. In fiscal year 2011 nearly half (45 percent) of expenditures were from federal sources. If Basic Education Program (BEP) funding for local education agencies is excluded, three of every four dollars spent that year for services for children were federal. And when state monies required to draw down federal funding are combined with federal funds, the total equals nine of every 10 dollars spent by the state for services to children, excluding the BEP.

“Ultimately, the analysis tells us Tennessee children are receiving a wide variety of services through programs that focus on keeping them safe, healthy, educated, supported and nurtured, and engaged in activities to help them succeed in school and in life,” O’Neal said.

The book, published annually, also lists county-by-county health, education, child welfare, demographic, economic and other data on Tennessee’s children. KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child 2011 is available on TCCY’s website at Interactive information in the book is also available at

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is a state agency created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Its primary mission is to advocate for improvements in the quality of life for Tennessee children and families. Partial funding for TCCY’s KIDS COUNT program is provided through a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to disadvantaged children.

The 2012 KIDS COUNT National Data Book ranking of states on child well-being will be released July 25, 2012.

For more information, contact (615) 741-2633 or a TCCY regional coordinator.

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