By Patrick Stelmach, California Fair Share
2013 was a tough year for children and public policy. Headlines everywhere show an economy bouncing back from the recession, but many of our children are still stuck in the recession. 24 percent of California kids live in poverty and 248,904 of our public K-12 students are homeless. And while lots of politicians talk about kids’ issues, few back it up.
But some in Congress actually had our kids’ backs, including quite a few members of California’s congressional delegation. These 2013 Champions for Children were recently recognized by the First Focus Campaign for Children, a nonpartisan group that advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are a priority in federal policy and budget decisions.
Every child in America deserves a fair shot in life, and that includes enough food to eat, a good education, a safe roof over his or her head and access to quality health care. In 2013, despite the threat of budget cuts, these members of Congress worked to put the needs of children first.
One-fifth of children in this country live in homes affected by hunger, and with nearly half of food assistance funds going to children, Congress will decide which children get the food they need and which go hungry. Hunger and homelessness are far too prevalent, and Congress has a moral imperative to act. But putting our children’s interests front and center is more than about addressing issues that affect the most marginalized in our society. It’s also about growing our middle class from both ends. Because think about it: quality education, access to health care, a safety net for unemployed families – these are the things that allow people to climb into the middle class and stay there once they arrive.
Children of immigrants are the fastest-growing segment of children in America, and Congress will decide whether immigration law prioritizes their safety and development or continues to devalue children and tear families apart. Our schools continue to struggle, in large part because a parent’s income rather than a child’s ability determines whether kids begin school ready to learn. A federal-state pre-school partnership modeled on Medi-Cal could level the playing field, but whether that proposal advances or falters will be up to the decisions of our representatives in Washington.
So who were the members of California’s delegation who made the grade? Ten Californians were recognized as “Champions:” U.S. Reps. Karen Bass, Xavier Becerra, Lois Capps, Judy Chu, Mike Honda, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Jackie Speier, as well as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
In addition, another five members were honored as Defenders of Children: U.S. Reps. Zoe Logren, Grace Napolitano, Linda Sanchez, David Valadao and Henry Waxman. Californians owe a thank you to these leaders for their extraordinary efforts to protect and improve the future of America’s next generation.
Patrick Stelmach is state organizer for California Fair Share, which stands for an America where everyone gets their fair share, does their fair share, and pays their fair share; and where everyone plays by the same rules.
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