First budgetary concern should be our children
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett
Just like in our own homes, putting the needs and priorities of our children should come first when Congress makes federal budgetary decisions.
Recently, I spoke at the First Focus Children’s National Budget Summit and emphasized that a budget ought to foster an environment in which each child is afforded an opportunity to achieve his or her full God-given potential. I was honored to receive First Focus’ “Champion of Children” award for my continuing efforts to improve opportunities for children and to bolster federal investment in our youngest Americans.
Advocacy on behalf of children is somewhat of a family tradition. My wife Libby has devoted her life to children: first as a bilingual elementary school teacher, then on behalf of special needs children, and now as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education. Our daughter Cathy followed in her footsteps as a pre-K coordinator and a teacher trainer, and our daughter Lisa and her husband are physicians who care for children.
Unfortunately, Congress has lost focus on the needs of children. Childhood poverty is still a large problem, as around one in four Texas children are impoverished. Childhood poverty is not the result of a poverty of advocates, or a poverty of good ideas, but it is a result of a poverty of legislative action. Together, we can change that.
Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Ways and Means Committee considered a very modest, bipartisan provision to ensure that foster children, aging out of care, at least have important documents to help them get a job: A birth certificate, Social Security card, and their medical records.
After stripping this provision from a bill to prevent sex trafficking, the Republican Majority moved forward at the same meeting in approving six bills that extended more than $300 billion in business tax breaks — all to be paid for with more debt. When Congress values tax breaks for businesses over investments in our children, our children’s future and America’s future competiveness lose.
Congress has done a lot of debating on ways to change the “No Child Left Behind” education policy, but done nothing. On a number of other issues, it seems like Congress is on a path to “Leave All Children Behind.” Spending on children makes up only eight percent of total federal government spending. For the one in five children who live in poverty, and the many more whose families are struggling to enter or stay in the middle class, this limited investment falls far short. Not only should we be budgeting more for education, but directing more resources to other priorities like Child Care Assistance, Head Start, Title I funding for needy schools, child abuse prevention, and adoption assistance.
But there is some good news for San Marcos. Recently, I announced that Community Action Inc. of Central Texas will receive more than $1.6 million in federal funding to provide Head Start and Early Head Start to families in Hays, Caldwell, and surrounding Central Texas counties. These funds will help increase opportunities for our youngest neighbors and their families.
Children don’t have high-paid lobbyists to advocate on their behalf. It is up to us to ensure children are well-nourished in mind and in body, safe, and well-loved. Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Let’s smooth the path for our children so they can lead us to a better place.
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