Our children are the future of America. Yet, our leaders are ignoring them.
Funding a war in Iraq and providing tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans does more damage than the Republican-led Congress cares to admit. As they clamor on about patriotism, their funding priorities are costing America its future.
Since 2002, Congressional budgets have cut nearly 7,000 slots for children in low-income families to receive Head Start services. These cuts were made despite studies demonstrating that Head Start children are more likely to graduate from high school, and less likely to repeat a grade or get into trouble later.
The next target is poor mothers with children under the age of 6. A recent congressional budget proposal would require these mothers to double their weekly work hours from 20 to 40 in order to remain eligible for job training and vocational education. Yet that plan fails to provide $10.5 billion for child-care funding that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated would be needed for mothers to afford to work the longer hours and maintain their benefits. The hypocrisy would be comical if it weren't true.
As our children -- unprepared for the challenges they'll face -- reach public schools, they get less help than ever before. As of June 2005, the House has shortchanged our public schools by $40 billion since the passage of the much-touted and lauded No Child Left Behind law.
It continues when students go to college. This year our leaders in Congress are proposing $14.3 billion in cuts to federal student aid programs.
At every turn, our future is threatened -- not by mythical weapons of mass destruction or by the lack of prayer in the classroom -- but by policies that continually rob our children of the skills they need to compete.
The results of such policies speak for themselves.
Since President Bush took office, 1.7 million more Americans live in poverty and the average median income has declined $2,710.
Meanwhile, the federal minimum wage, $5.15 an hour, has not been increased since 1997, and has its lowest purchasing power since 1990.
If the United States can find $250 billion for a failed war in Iraq and give American millionaires an average tax break of $41,574 apiece in 2006, then the most affluent country in the world can find the funds to improve its schools and workplaces.
Our future depends on it.
Larry Brophy, Payson