The 2016 Election: Building Bridges or Fences for the Next Generation

rita-jaramillo-nlciThere is a growing sense among voters that the American dream is slipping away from them. They believe that the quality of life for children has become worse over the last decade and they fear this generation will be the first to fare worse than their parents. There is alarming federal data affirming their concerns.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2013, approximately 21 percent of school-aged children were in families living in poverty. This is higher than it was two decades earlier in 1990 when it was 17 percent. From 1990 to 2000, the poverty rate for school-age children decreased in 38 states, and in 2013, the poverty rate for school-age children was higher in 43 states than it was in 2000. America cannot continue to prosper and grow when the next generation of leaders and workers are at risk.

According to the Pew Research Center, for children of color, the statistics are worse with 42.5% of Hispanic and 38.4% of African American children living in poverty. Researchers suggest that living in poverty during early childhood is associated with lower than average academic performance that begins in kindergarten and extends through elementary and high school. Living in poverty during early childhood is also associated with lower than average rates of school completion.

Our nation’s future depends on our children’s capacity to enter adulthood fully equipped to become productive workers. Yet, families are struggling to maintain their financial footing in the face of a sluggish economy with flat wages and the long-term effects of the recession. Effective solutions for addressing the challenges confronting poor children must be looked at comprehensively, in the context of their family, community and support services.

As voters, we must listen to the candidates and support those whose proposals invest in our children. From child care to workforce development, from health care to housing, from nutrition to tax policy, assess which proposals provide the most relief for children and their families.

Regardless of party affiliation, candidates are talking about a revolution in this country. Each has a very different agenda. Some are about building walls, others are about building bridges to the middle class. This election creates an opportunity to influence our nation’s priorities.

In 1999, the National Latino Children’s Institute brought together more than 300 Latino and children’s advocates to develop a set of guiding principles believed necessary for the complete and healthy development of Latino and all children. This is known as the National Latino Children’s Agenda. As you evaluate the candidates, ask yourself whether and how their proposals promote our children’s well-being. We are their voice and your vote matters.

Su voto es su voz!

María Rita Jaramillo, MPA
Chair Emeritus
National Latino Children’s Institute



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