A Letter from ECM to Presidential Candidates

Dear XXX Presidential Candidate,

The Every Child Matters Education Fund, a national, non-partisan organization, has established full-time operations in New Hampshire and Iowa through the primary and caucus cycles to make children’s issues more visible.  We urge you to protect current national investments in children and youth as federal and state lawmakers wrestle with the nation’s economic and budget woes.

We recently commissioned a Mason-Dixon poll to examine the attitudes of New Hampshire voters on children’s issues, as well as their views on the proper role of the federal government in addressing them.

The poll, conducted in early October, shows widespread public support – among Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike – for smart investments in children. Voters oppose cuts in services to children. As you present your views to the public, we urge you to consider the sentiments of voters expressed in the poll, and to hold children’s services harmless. You can see the full results at our website www.everychildmatters.org

Among the poll’s principal findings:

  1. 60% of general election swing voters believe the lives of children have gotten worse in the last decade.
  2. 75% of swing voters say the federal government should give a higher priority to the health, education and well-being of children. 54% of GOP primary voters agree.
  3. Voters are more likely to support candidates who address specific children’s issues. For instance, 78% of all voters, and 64% of GOP primary voters, support expanding after school services. 71% of all voters, and 68% of GOP primary voters, support a national initiative to prevent child abuse.
  4. 91% of general election swing voters, and 77% of GOP primary voters, want child well-being issues addressed. Majorities do not know where the GOP candidates stand on children’s issues.
  5. 70% of general election voters, and 57% of GOP primary voters, do not want the Congressional ‘super committee’ to make cuts in children’s services as a way of closing the budget deficit.
  6. 66% of general election voters, and 53% of GOP primary voters, say they would be more likely to support a candidate who supports eliminating the recent tax cuts passed in last decade for families earning over $250,000 a year.

Children didn’t crash our economy, and they should not be asked to make the sacrifice needed to restore our nation’s financial health. Even prior to the Great Recession, millions of America’s children and youth were struggling. The situation has become more urgent as states have slashed billions in spending on children. Further, Congress appears poised to do the same, cutting into proven programs adopted by earlier Congresses and presidents.
                                                                              
Cutting children’s programs doesn’t make sense as we compete in a global economy. A recent UNICEF study found the U.S. ranked 20th in child well-being among 21 democracies surveyed. Child poverty is surging, more than double the elderly rate. Millions of children receive no pre-K learning or are alone every day after school. The military says 75% of young people don’t qualify for service because of health problems, low education, or a criminal record. And, shockingly, some 2,500 children annually are killed in their own homes by family caretakers.
 
These disturbing numbers are signs that we have turned our backs on millions of children. Parents, communities, private organizations, and state governments all have responsibility for addressing the issue. But our national government must also continue its long-standing role as a major player in creating opportunities for all U.S. children.

As your campaign develops its policies aimed at children and youth, we urge you to adopt the principle that children’s programs be held harmless. America is not “broke” like some say. We’re spending on the wrong things:  hundreds of billions on weapons that many in the military say we don’t need; an inefficient medical system; and huge expenditures through the tax code for our wealthiest citizens and corporations.
 
Even if we put aside the argument that each generation has a moral obligation to the one that follows, research shows there is no higher economic return than investments in children. And a recent report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff declares: The first priority should be services for “the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.”
 
We know that the interests of more powerful groups easily drown out the voices of children. Children are powerless. They need powerful friends in high places. They need their president to look out for them. 
 
We would appreciate the opportunity for our national and state staff to meet with you in Iowa or New Hampshire to discuss these issues.  We are keenly interested in your views on the proper role of our national government in addressing the needs of children and families, and we will be happy to distribute your plans to our fifty-state network of child-serving organizations.

The questions we would like to discuss include:

  • Children on Medicaid are far more likely to be turned away by medical specialists or be made to wait longer for an appointment, even for serious medical problems. How would you address these issues?
  • What changes would you make to the Affordable Care Act and State Children’s Health Insurance Program? Currently, 8 million uninsured children will receive coverage when the law is slated to be fully implemented in 2014.
  • What do you believe is the proper level of overall federal spending, as a share of gross domestic product, for support of education, health care, and safety of children? It has been declining for decades.
  • Overall family income has dropped for middle and low income families since 2000. What policies should the government adopt to increase the income of these families?
  • Nearly 3 million children nationwide are reported abused and neglected each year.What are your thoughts about keeping children safe from violence?
  • What would your administration’s position be on pre-K for all children?
  • College tuition has increased substantially. The largest Pell Grant award covers 72% of tuition costs at the U. of Iowa, and 36% at the U. of New Hampshire. That share has declined over the last decade. How would you address this issue?
  • Millions of children have a parent in prison. How would you address the special needs of these children?

Thank you for considering our request. We will be in touch with your campaign office to see if we might get your views on these issues. Good luck with your campaign.

Sincerely,

Michael R. Petit, President
Every Child Matters Education Fund