With 22% of children in America living in poverty, millions regularly go hungry and struggle for access to medical care and early education programs. And these adversities may interfere with optimal brain growth in early childhood and learning impediments during school years. That’s why I have been helping organize an effort involving six of the nation’s leading child advocates to give voice to this critical issue.
As part of this effort, we wrote President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney last month to ask what they intended to do from the White House – short-term and long-term – to address the extraordinary challenges of kids stuck in multiple adversities of persistent poverty.
While the Romney campaign has informed us that they would not respond in writing to our request, we recently received a reply from the Obama campaign delineating what the president has done and will continue to do in terms of the safety net programs and new initiatives.
In his response, President Obama cites his administration’s record on addressing poverty over the course of his first term, including:
Going forward, the Obama campaign indicates that, if reelected, the president will continue to invest in “high-quality early learning programs – including: Head Start, public and private pre-K, and child care” – and also encouraging “ states to raise their standards so all children have access to a quality education.”
In response to our question: “What will you pledge to do in your first 100 days to address childhood poverty?” the president stated that he:
Finally, in response to our question about his long-term vision for how to permanently ensure that future generations of children will not have to face the specter of crushing poverty, President Obama replied that he “would reform our schools and invest more in them” and underscored the need to “transform high-poverty neighborhoods with distressed public housing and crumbling schools into communities that are sustainable for the growth of our children.”
Among the initiatives he cites for achieving these goals are:
Given that children in poverty have not been on the agenda, in any visible way, during the long and intense campaign for the presidency, we are gratified as a group to have received this response. But before this election has run its course, we – and all Americans – need to hear more from both candidates.
I’ll be in the audience for the second debate between Obama and Romney on Tuesday, October 16 at Hofstra University where I hope the candidates will be asked about their plans to combat child poverty. I know you’ll be watching closely as well.