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Bruner: America’s future (our kids) still largely missing in presidential campaign

Ames Tribune
10/31/12

Charles Bruner, Executive Director, CFPCBy Charles Bruner, Child & Family Policy Center

Children represent 24 percent of the population and 100 percent of the future, but children largely have been “missing in action” in the presidential debates and the overall campaign.

While both presidential candidates have made specific commitments to creating new jobs and reducing the national debt, neither has made similar commitments to reducing child poverty (25 percent among children 0-6, twice the rate for adults and three times the rate for seniors), the current school drop-out rate (one in four youth do not graduate on time and one in eight do not have a diploma or GED by the time they are 30), or the rate of single parenting (at an all-time high in America at more than one in three births).

If these statistics do not change, the United States’ competitive economic position in the world certainly will suffer. There will be a much smaller and less secure “middle class.”

Comparison of the Democratic and Republican national party platforms (and state party platforms) show both parties are concerned about child policy issues but they offer different approaches to addressing child needs.

For instance, the Republican national platform states there already is ample funding for education in our overall system but that it is misdirected. It stresses the importance of consumer choice in education and would do much more to have any federal funding “follow the child,” generally instilling competition into the public education system.

The Democratic national platform stresses the importance of investing in public education and more teachers in the field, generally opposing vouchers while promoting public education as the backbone of the educational system.

On families raising children, the Republican national platform views many of the federal supports which go to families as breeding dependency – and would block grant many “means-tested” programs (including food assistance and Medicaid) which now support working families with children, arguing that states are in a better position to target resources to those in need.

The Democratic party platform speaks to the need for publicly funded transfer programs (including the Earned Income Tax Credit and health coverage as well as Medicaid and food assistance) to ensure necessary economic supports to low-income families with children. The parties even differ on the definitions of what constitutes a family deserving of recognition and support.

Voices for America’s Children, nationally, and the Children’s Policy Coalition in Iowa, have sought to raise child policy issues to the prominence they need. This includes a guide on key federal child policy issues and how the national and state political party platforms (and presidential candidate websites) address them.

Most recently, it produced a 2012 Voter’s Guide which includes unedited responses from the candidates for the 4th Congressional District, Steve King and Christie Vilsack, on seven key federal child policy issues. These are available at www. itsaboutourkids.org.

Rather than spending tens of millions of dollars on political advertisements largely seeking to scare voters, vilify opponents and feed into the public’s cynicism about government, candidates would do much better to use elections to raise important issues about our future and have a serious dialogue about them.

Children and child policy could be a game-changer to this end, but it will take all of us to insist upon a serious discussion about the future of children in our society during election campaigns. This starts with examining the information that does exist about children and public policy, and Voices and the CPC have done a valuable service to make that available.

Charles Bruner, the director of Child and Family Policy Center, Iowa, is co-chair of Voices for America’s Children Electoral Education Campaign, a former Iowa state senator and a researcher and consultant on child policy issues.

Read as published at the Ames Tribune site