Shaking hands and kissing babies: That's the old campaign adage. But politicians need to do more than kiss babies to make an impact on the lives of our young children.
It's important for all of us to know where incumbent officials and candidates stand on issues of early childcare and education. For starters, you can go online and view national, state and local voting records at www.votesmart.org.
Even if you don't have young children in your life, remember that these tender souls comprise the future of this country -- they will be our workforce, our entrepreneurs, our doctors, our members of congress, our ambassadors to the world. Don't they deserve to have the best start in life so they can become healthy, productive citizens?
Here in Minnesota, we're usually ranked fairly high in our level of care and education for children, compared to other states. And yet, about 15 percent of our children live in poverty -- 17 percent in the nine counties of west central Minnesota.
More than a quarter of our children's health care is covered by government assistance or isn't covered at all. About 55 percent of Minnesota 3 and 4 year olds aren't enrolled in any pre-school education program, and 30 percent of our fourth graders are scoring below basic reading levels (based on 2011 KIDS COUNT data, Annie E. Casey Foundation).
It just goes to show, every state needs to be diligent when it comes to caring for our littlest ones. We cannot and must not neglect their rights locally or nationally. But they cannot speak for themselves. We need to step up for them. -- Nancy Jost, Early Childhood coordinator with West Central Initiative