Last week I attended the Children's Summit 2015 at Microsoft’s offices in Mountain View. In the packet for the workshop, I found a state budget analysis with the provocative headline, "Proposed State Budget Doesn't Do Enough For Kids.”
When will we ever learn? Before it’s too late, I hope.
The Children Now and Pro-Kid budget analysis asserts a "troubling lack of commitment" to California's low-income children. Fifty percent of children in the state are born into low-income families, creating stark inequities between children before they enter kindergarten.
The Children's Agenda 2015 Data Book indicates that we are making incremental progress for Santa Clara County children, from birth to 12th grade. Eleven of 13 data points demonstrate progress, including school readiness, 3rd-grade reading proficiency and early social-emotional development. But two data indicators show we are losing ground: food insecurity and hunger, and safe and stable living situations.
I believe we should be working under the "fierce urgency of now" to address the imbalances. Policymakers must make low-income families and their children a top priority. Some courageous elected leaders are trying to do the right thing for our children.
Last week I also visited Sacramento with a committed group of community leaders. We met with Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) to support his authorship of AB 47, which would expand the state's full-day preschool program for low-income families that make 70 percent or less of the state’s median annual income of $46,896.
When I visit Sacramento I am always reminded that the governor is the one who holds the key to funding quality early learning for all low-income children. Many say Gov. Jerry Brown is not convinced that quality early learning is a worthwhile expenditure. As we were driving on L Street, we were stopped by a trailer with a prototype of the High Speed Rail power car to be displayed on the Capitol grounds.
I can argue that high-speed rail is a discretionary luxury and high quality early learning and good health is an essential component of a just society. A society built on equity, with the belief that all our children deserve a strong start, should be a unifying message for both government and business circles.
Gov. Brown, educated by Jesuits, should understand the social justice issues inherent in the struggle. As the seventh largest economy in the world, California must set an example for the upward mobility that is possible when all children are valued.
As the Pro-Kid Policy Agenda reads, "Prioritizing kids should be a unifying goal. Who, for example, thinks it makes sense that, while California is a relatively high tax state (ranking 11th in per capita state and local tax revenues), it ranks in the bottom half of states in per-capita expenditures for education and children's health?"
Isn't it time that we place children, birth through age 5, at the top of our legislative agenda?