State of the Union and Our Children
Maritza Kelley (Former Staff)Education Federal Budget Poverty & Family Economics
The President didn’t cover everything under the sun when it comes to kids, but he did weave kids into every issue he discussed. As a quarter of the population, kids are our largest constituency, and public policy decisions have the greatest impact on them. That’s why taking kids into consideration in public policy and budget decision’s is the impetus behind the creation of a National Commission on Children. A National Commission on Children would once again focus the attention of federal policymakers and national news media on children’s issues, generate new ideas for policy reforms that meet the challenges children face today, and create momentum for once-in-a-generation change.
Below are some of the key areas where the President mentioned kids, corresponding with First Focus resources on those topics.
Universal early education
“Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So, tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America…Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.”
Giving families a path to the middle class with livable wages
“We know our economy’s stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong.”
“Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge, to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. And we’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math, the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.”
Key investments in our children during budget negotiations
“Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms. Otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations. But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful.”