Iowa Caucus: Where do Presidential Candidates Stand on Children’s Issues?

Charles Bruner, The Gazette

When caucus goers participate in Iowa’s First in the Nation Presidential selection process, many have as a foremost policy concern what the next president will do to produce a bright future for the next generation. A July Iowa voter survey, conducted by Selzer & Company, showed that Iowa voters care deeply about children and rank children’s issues at the top of their policy concerns.

Unfortunately, the first 10 presidential candidate debates have given no attention to child policy concerns. Of the 501 questions asked by the media moderators of the debates, not one has been about children’s health, safety, early learning, economic security or pre-college education. Candidate websites shed only a little more light. Eleven of the 14 official websites of the major party candidates do have issue or position or goal statements on education, but there is only one among the 14 with a statement on early childhood, only one on child hunger, and only one on infant mortality — and none on child welfare, juvenile justice or child poverty (and none on poverty overall). Although one-quarter of the population, children are less likely than seniors, veterans, small businesspersons, farmers and gun owners to be the focus of specific policy attention on the websites.

At the same time, the federal government and the next president have major responsibilities in child health, child safety, early childhood, K-12 education and child economic security. While states and communities make many of the decisions in these areas, the federal government is a partner on each and contributes over one-third of total funding to address these issues.

Fortunately, thanks to the Children’s Policy Coalition, the Child and Family Policy Center, and Every Child Matters, there is some information for voters on child policy issues and on where candidates stand on key issues. The Children’s Policy Coalition includes over 40 Iowa organizations seeking to elevate child policy issues to prominence. The website includes candidate responses (unedited) to six child policy issues, an overview of each of these issues, the voter opinion survey, and an analysis of presidential debate questions and candidate websites.

The Every Child Matters Education Fund has created a “Digital Dialogue” that includes statements and positions taken by candidates on children’s issues, some of which have been the result of ECM and Child Policy Coalition staff and members raising these issues on campaign stops in Iowa.

It may be that the media assumes there is no controversy or difference of opinion on child policy, but this is not true. All candidates care about children and the future; but their approaches are not the same. It only will be through raising child policy issues that public dialogue will occur, different approaches will be aired and vetted, some consensus for action will be established, and political will to take that action will be secured.

Originally published January 27, 2016 The Gazette