By Larry Marx, Executive Director, The Children’s Agenda
A new national public opinion poll released last week by the Children’s Leadership Council finds strong support for increasing funding for effective programs that improve the lives of children and youth across the age spectrum, from birth to adulthood.
An overwhelming 79 percent of Americans favor investing more in programs that support children’s education, healthcare, nutrition and well-being. A solid majority of Republicans (59 percent) join with overwhelming majorities of independents (82 percent) and Democrats (93 percent) in calling on Congress to make children’s programs and services a higher budget priority.
The Children’s Agenda, a nonpartisan advocacy organization, has asked our candidates for the state legislature and Governor where they stand on critically important children’s issues. View their responses to The Children’s Agenda’s nonpartisan candidate questionnaire here to learn about their plans for Nurse-Family Partnership, quality after school programs, child care subsidies for working families, changes to the juvenile justice system, and other important issues.
Elections matter. The actions taken by the leaders we vote into office this Tuesday, November 4th – or their inaction – broadly affect the outcomes in children’s health, education and overall success in life.
The Children’s Leadership Council — a coalition of more than 50 of the nation’s leading child and youth advocacy organizations, commissioned Hart Research Associates to conduct the poll, which used telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of over 800 Americans age 18 and older. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.
The Children’s Agenda is heartened by these findings. It is our strong belief—backed by decades of evidence—that cutting services and supports to our nation’s children is not only unjust, it is short-sighted. The well-being of our youth today impacts the health of our nation now and in the decades to come.
Our community must be one in which the place where a child starts out does not dictate where she ends up. A child who has grown up in poverty can make it out of poverty, and an abused child can heal from the abuse. Most importantly, poverty and abuse can be prevented, too, not just remediated – but children can’t do either on their own. Nor should they be expected to. This is why elected officials have an obligation to support, protect and defend programs that invest in and assist children, youth and their families. Americans everywhere, including greater Rochester, are asking for no less.
Among the results of the nationwide poll:
- By a strong margin, Americans say that investing more in children’s health, education and well-being should be a higher priority today than reducing taxes.
- As we near national mid-term Congressional elections, 52 percent of poll respondents who are registered voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate who favored increasing funding for programs and services to address children’s needs, with only 10 percent saying they would be less likely to favor such a candidate.
When it comes to supporting vulnerable populations, Americans do not see it as an “either or” proposition: 63 percent say that the aging of the baby boom generation means we need to invest more in children today, not cut programs for kids, because “the best way to provide a secure retirement [for seniors] is to ensure that we have productive workers contributing to the economy in the future.”
These findings come as our nation continues to experience a slow recovery marked by stagnant wages, rising costs, inadequate public programs and growing economic inequality. Children and young people shoulder much of the burden: nearly one in five children and young adults in our country live in poverty. In Monroe County, it’s worse – one out of every four children – and it’s every other child in the City of Rochester who live in poverty today. That’s unacceptable.
The good news: smart investments work. New Census Bureau data show that federal anti- poverty programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit lifted millions of children out of poverty last year. The new poll results indicate that the majority of Americans also believe these supports are essential in helping families navigate today’s economy.
In the months ahead, the New York State legislature will debate the worthiness of further investments across the cradle-to-career continuum, including evidence-based home visitation programs like the Nurse-Family Partnership Program, child care subsidies for low-income working families, high quality afterschool programs for school age youth, and jobs for youth. These are all part of the solution to the questions that will dominate public discussion in our community, state and nation over the new few years: poverty, inequality, and economic and social mobility.
The Children’s Agenda believes that we must do more than just talk or theorize about these critical issues. We must act. We know what works. To make a difference in children’s lives, we need to sufficiently commit to what works at every level – government, business, and nonprofits – to what works. Improving children’s health, education and well-being is not just the right thing to do—it is one of the smartest investments we can make for our nation’s future.
So on Tuesday, November 4th, Vote for Kids. The Children’s Agenda joins the Children’s Leadership Council and American voters in expecting our leaders to make smart, effective investments across the age spectrum from birth to young adulthood, and across the issue spectrum—from children’s health and nutrition to early care and education, violence prevention, supports to youth transitioning out of foster care and juvenile justice, and economic security programs for vulnerable children and families. Check out how the candidates on your ballot this Tuesday plan to act on the most critical issues affecting our children and youth.