Child poverty, education gaps and health care challenges are barely on the radar screen for Republican candidates
By Summit Voice
With 11 months until Election Day 2012, presidential candidates are spending far less time addressing issues facing America’s children than other key issues, according to a new report released this week.
According to the report, children’s issues commanded scarcely two percent of the attention in the first 10 presidential candidate debates to date and less than that in total discussion and debate time.
The report also criticized media for failing to ask questions about children’s issues.
“Kids in Colorado and throughout America are struggling with increasing poverty rates, academic achievement gaps and for access to basic health and child care supports. Citizens deserve to better understand the plans of candidates – from both parties – for addressing these issues.” said Chris Watney, president and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign.
The Colorado Children’s Campaign, a member of the Voices for America’s Children nationwide child advocacy network, is joining with child advocacy organizations across the country to bring attention to this issue and challenge stakeholders to ensure children’s needs are not forgotten as future national leaders lay out their priorities.
Child advocates, including the Children’s Campaign, are calling upon presidential candidates, debate moderators, and state and local campaigns across America to put the nation’s 74 million children into the spotlight.
How the federal government responds to children is crucial to Colorado and children across the country. The federal government currently provides over one-third of all funding to address health, education, and safety needs of children, in many instances in partnership with state and local governments.
“Decisions made at the federal level will greatly impact how kids in Colorado will fare in the coming years,” said Watney. “Colorado voters need to know how candidates plan to support our country’s children should they become president.”
The Child and Family Policy Center conducted a content analysis of the transcripts from the first 10 Republican presidential debates, beginning with the Greenville, South Carolina debate on May 5 and concluding with the Spartanburg, South Carolina debate on Nov. 12, with other debates occurring in California, Florida (2), Iowa, Michigan, Nevada and New Hampshire (2). In all debates, the format was for moderators to ask questions for candidate response, sometimes with opportunities for candidates to raise issues with one another. In only one debate was time allotted to candidates for opening and closing statements.
“The media has yet to raise questions of how candidates will work to improve the health, safety and well-being of America’s children and what they propose to do with the $374 billion in federal funding currently directed towards these ends,” said Charles Bruner, Director of the Child & Family Policy Center and co-author of the report.
In addition to debate analysis, CFPC also reviewed the candidates’ position statements and ways they presented their policy views on their websites (President Obama was included with the eight major Republican candidates). With rare exception (see Appendix 3 of the report), there is no mention of such policy issues as early childhood education, child welfare, juvenile justice, family economic security, or best ways to address the needs of children with disabilities. In several instances where children were mentioned, it was in the context of government spending and the debt that could be left for children to pay in the future.
The report was sponsored by Voices for America’s Children, a nationwide network of multi-issue child advocacy organizations, as part of a larger civic engagement effort.
“The report clearly shows that children and the policy issues that affect their well-being have been relegated to the shadows of the presidential debates so far. Yet Americans think children are far too important to stay in the shadows for long and we are urging candidates and the media to change this conversation in upcoming debates,” said Voices for America’s Children’s President and CEO Bill Bentley.
Click here to access the full report: http://voices.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Moving-Americas-Children-Into-the-Spotlight-report-120511.pdf