Members of Congress are home for the summer, meeting with constituents, learning more about issues in their districts and preparing for the November election. They get back to D.C. in early September, just a few days after Washington’s school kids head to the classroom.
Then, Congress will resume the debate about our national priorities – a debate that very directly concerns every Washington child who’s entering a classroom for the first time.
The first five years of life have a deep and durable influence on the rest – they’re the time when the fundamental architecture of the mind is built. Our public resources for the very young– from Early Head Start to Head Start to child care funds – affect children’s ability to spend their early years in enriching environments that serve them well in school and in life.
A wealth of data shows that these programs close the opportunity gap. Parents have seen that they work. Many lawmakers know that without them, we’ll neither lower spending nor create broadly shared prosperity. And yet they’re under threat.
The race is on for the future of Washington’s kids.
This month’s primary election has carved out the top two candidates for public office in districts across the state. Those who win will make policy decisions that affect your life, the life of a child you care about, and the lives of 1.5 million kids in Washington.
Now’s the time to tell candidates what’s at stake for kids. The Children’s Alliance has sent educational materials to every legislative candidate in the state to inform them about child hunger, covering all kids, improving access to dental care and early learning. Now we need your help.
High-quality early learning can be a standard across the state with continued support, thanks to Washington’s Early Achievers rating system. The Health Care Authority’s planned partnership with community service providers means Apple Health for Kids can cover more uninsured children. In Walla Walla last week, Children’s Alliance presented Rep. Maureen Walsh with a Crayon Award for her commitment to early learning. Recently, we also named Rep. Luis Moscoso a legislative Champion for Children along with 11 other state lawmakers for their work to protect kids. In national news, advocates declare "No Child is Illegal," and celebrate a new law that allows young immigrants temporary protection from deportation.
When Seattle resident Don Cameron attended Advocacy Camp in 2010 with his wife Hazel, the couple had already been staunch advocates for young people in their community for a long time.
Don and Hazel speak up for kids by preventing them from falling through the cracks into the prison pipeline – especially, says Don, in a nation that spends $60 billion a year incarcerating people yet does little to address appallingly low graduation rates. Both work with 4C Coalition, a Seattle-based mentorship program headed by Hazel that grew out of a community response to escalating youth violence in 1999.
“The kids we work with — 50 percent of whom are kids of color — come from low-income homes and a lot of their parents can’t advocate for them,” says Don.
As the state’s Health Care Authority chief prepares to leave his position, covering all kids and Washington’s health insurance exchange will remain a priority. Sea Mar Community Health Centers will open a dental clinic in Monroe for 1,500 underserved children and adults. In national news, a study finds that poor access to dental care can lead to lower school performance. Another report shows how midlevel licensed dental practitioners can help extend dental care to 6.7 million kids through school-based programs.
In state news, one Children’s Alliance advocate fights for her community as they deal with the loss of half their food assistance. The agriculture industry gives Apple Health for Kids a boost, and Asian Pacific Islander leaders support marriage equality to strengthen families. According to this week’s budget forecast, meeting our constitutional obligation to fund education won't work without new tax revenue.
Apple Health for Kids provides health care for 4 out of 10 of our state’s children. Yet more than 100,000 children remain uninsured – less likely to get the health care they need to grow up well and succeed in school. A key player in Washington’s apple industry wants to take a bite out of that problem.
The newly released Kids Count Databook on child-wellbeing shows that economic hardship has pulled 65,000 of Washington’s kids into poverty since the beginning of the recession. While on-time graduation rates and test scores dropped during this time, children’s health coverage improved remarkably. In national news, a long waiting list for child care demands that we invest in our children instead of giving tax breaks to the richest 2 percent. One education analyst asserts that meeting the needs of children means a sharper focus on racial equity in child policymaking and practices.
In Washington state, deep food stamp cuts leave one Marshallese family in Spokane with a daily food budget of $1.20 per person, per meal. A new report finds that federal spending for children’s programs has declined for the first time in three decades, the labor movement supports same-sex marriage to support strong families, and an initiative to lock a two-thirds majority vote in the State Legislature will leave kids in the dust. In national news, a former U.S. surgeon general says the oral health crisis calls for a new licensed dental practitioner to expand the reach of quality care.
Many Children’s Alliance members know what the Affordable Care Act means for their families. Most regard the new law as a welcome change.
That’s what we’ve heard from the 68 people who answered our recent survey asking families to share “how you believe you are, or may be, affected by the Affordable Care Act."