By Nancy Jost
Shaking hands and kissing babies: that's the old adage about campaigning. But politicians need to do more than kiss babies to make an impact on the lives of our young children.
It's important for all of us to know where incumbent officials and candidates stand on issues of early child care and education. For starters, you can go online and view national, state and local voting records at www.votesmart.org. Even if you don't have young children in your life, remember that these tender souls comprise the future of this country--they will be our workforce, our entrepreneurs, our doctors, our members of congress, our ambassadors to the world. Don't they deserve to have the best start in life so they can become healthy, productive citizens?
Here in Minnesota, we're usually ranked fairly high in our level of care and education for children, compared to other states. And yet, about 12 percent of our children live in poverty. More than a quarter of our children's health care is covered by government assistance or isn't covered at all. About 57 percent of three- and four-year-olds aren't enrolled in any pre-school education program, and 27 percent of our fourth graders are scoring below basic reading levels.
It just goes to show, every state needs to be diligent when it comes to caring for our littlest ones. We cannot and must not neglect their rights locally or nationally. But they cannot speak for themselves. We need to step up for them.
Sept. 16 is Step Up for Kids Day. It's a non-partisan, nationwide event to draw attention to issues affecting America's children. Events are happening in every state and in Washington D.C. In Minnesota, an event will be held in Duluth. But consider promoting Step Up for Kids Day in your own community, as well. Learn more at www.everychildmatters.org, or call state coordinator Jen Rison at (612) 219-0215.
Nancy Jost is Early Childhood Coordinator for the West Central Initiative.