WASHINGTON, May 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Surrounded by hundreds of supporters
waving signs in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Senator Chris Dodd of
Connecticut, Congressman George Miller of California, and Marian Wright
Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), announced
details of a new comprehensive bill that would help ensure all children in
America get what they need to thrive and grow up safe, healthy, and educated.
The Act to Leave No Child Behind, unveiled at a noon press conference on
Capitol Hill, provides a solid action agenda to deliver children from poverty,
violence, abuse, neglect, and poor education. It combines the best public and
private ideas, policies and practices into a coherent, comprehensive measure
with 12 specific titles to improve the lives of children including:
* Ensuring health insurance for every child and their parents
* Ending child hunger through expansion of food programs
* Lifting every child out of poverty -- half by 2004, all by 2010
* Fully funding quality Head Start, child care, and preschool programs
* Making sure every child can read by fourth grade and leaves school
ready for work and life
* Providing all children with quality after-school and summer programs
* Protecting all children from neglect and abuse
"Too many children are struggling in a sea of hardships," said Senator
Chris Dodd, Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Committee Subcommittee on Children and Families. "This measure -- like a
lifeline -- can literally lift them up and chart a course to a brighter
future. By investing in initiatives that work today, we invest in tomorrow,
and by doing so, recognize that while our children may only be one quarter of
our population, they are one hundred percent of our future."
Many of the provisions of the Act focus on help for the most vulnerable
children. But many sections, such as environmental safeguards, strengthening
public education, and improving the quality of child health care and child
care would help all children, regardless of their economic status.
"This bill provides an affordable road map for the safe and healthy
development of America's children," said Rep. George Miller, the ranking
Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee and the former
chairman of the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families. "America
must make a choice as to whether it will invest in the healthy development of
the next generation of its children or in the stock portfolios of the richest
one percent of taxpayers in this country. We cannot do both. But we can help
CDF and its supporters see this legislation as a bold and comprehensive
agenda that addresses the needs of the whole child, rather than a piecemeal,
fragmented series of steps. Children don't come in pieces; they live in
families who live in communities. The Act brings together child advocates and
service providers in a range of areas affecting children.
"It is time for the richest nation on earth to do what we know works to
help all of our children," said Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president
of the Children's Defense Fund. "Children who are homeless, hungry,
neglected, abused, without health care, in unsafe communities and schools are
not acts of God. They are our moral and political choices as a nation. We can
change these choices and meet the needs of all our children.
It is shameful and unnecessary that 12 million children are poor and 10.8
million children lack health insurance. We know how to solve these problems.
Now we must build the political and civic will to do so."
The problems facing children and families in the child welfare system are
closely linked to each of the other sections of the Act. Poverty and lack of
health care, child care, and education places hundreds of thousands of
children at risk. Until these problems are addressed, the child welfare
system will continue to be overwhelmed by families in crisis.
CDF is joined in supporting this legislation by a wide variety of
organizations and child advocates. The Steering Committee includes: AARP,
the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME),
Bread for the World, the Center for Community Change, the Child Welfare League
of America, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the
National Council of the Churches of Christ USA, the National Council of Jewish
Women, the National Council of Negro Women, the National Urban League,
RESULTS, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Stand for Children,
the United Methodist Church, and Youthbuild.
Other endorsers of the bill include the Alliance for Children and
Families, the African Methodist Episcopal Church Women's Missionary Society,
the American Jewish Congress, the Children's Environmental Health Network, the
Food Research and Action Center, the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, the
National Council of La Raza, and the National Education Association.
"This is an incredible moment of opportunity," said Edelman. "In a new
millennium, a new century, a new Congress, and a new President who has
promised to Leave No Child Behind(R). We should hold him and the Congress to
this standard until all Americans can proudly say, 'We Leave No Child
Background materials on key sections of The Act to Leave No Child Behind
are available by calling Gigi Hinton, Press Secretary of the Children's
Defense Fund, at 202-662-3609.
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SOURCE Children's Defense Fund