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FROM THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S LAW CENTER

Today thousands of advocates are joining together to “March Forth” in support of increased funding for child care, Head Start and child nutrition. This year’s action theme — “Families Earning, Children Learning” — reminds Congress of the importance of these programs for children, parents and our economic recovery.

Take action today by calling or e-mailing Congress.

To call your Members of Congress, use the script below and dial toll-free at 1-888-460-0813. The operator who answers the phone will ask which Senator or Representative you would like to speak to. To find out who your Senators and Representative are, search our directory.

When you’re connected with their offices, tell the staffers who answer the phone:

  • Hi, my name is __________. I’m a constituent. (If you are also a parent, child care provider, community leader, etc., feel free to mention that as well.)
  • I am calling because I believe child care, Head Start and child nutrition are essential programs for children and families. I urge the Senator/Representative to support the increases for these programs proposed in the President’s budget.

Remember to call back until you’ve spoken to the offices of your Representative and both of your Senators.

Here’s why you should take action right now:

Your Members of Congress have started to work on the federal budget, which determines a large chunk of funding for child care and early education programs, along with other programs that matter for women and families. By calling today, we can make sure that Congress knows that the increased investments proposed in the President’s budget are necessary.

The more calls and e-mails they get, the more pressure Congress will feel to support these vital programs. So please help spread the word by forwarding this e-mail to friends, family and colleagues.

Thanks for Marching Forth with us!

Helen BlankBest wishes,

Helen Blank
Director, Leadership and Public Policy
National Women’s Law Center

P.S. For more information about the President’s budget proposal for child care and early education, check out our fact sheet and blog post.

P.P.S. Many thanks to our partner organization, AFSCME, for providing the toll-free number to reach Congress — 1-888-460-0813.

For the last few months I’ve been developing a policy agenda for Voices for Georgia’s Children that centers around disconnected and vulnerable youth. A lot of that work will focus on the education system but Voices is committed to an even broader approach when it comes to our most disenfranchised children. Included in any definition of disconnected and vulnerable youth would certainly be children involved in the state foster care system and therefore Voices is supporting HB 1085, a bill dropped earlier this week by Representative Katie Dempsey (R-Floyd) on behalf of the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).

One issue of particular concern to Voices is that of connection; connection to family, to community and to educational supports to ensure youth enter adulthood ready and able to thrive. For that reason, Voices supports the proposed HB 1085. We believe that the addition to the juvenile code of provisions specifically addressing the needs of children in foster care related to sibling relationships, educational stability and the development of written transitional living plans are good for the children of Georgia.

A key impetus for HB 1085 is compliance with the Federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (P.L. 110-351). For more information take a look at the website of the Fostering Connections National Resource Center.

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Actions on Tuesday by the state legislature and the Georgia Board of Education demonstrate pretty vividly the schizophrenia we have about how to make our schools better.  We clearly zigzag between wanting to give lots of control to some local schools in hopes of making them excellent and holding on to control of the minutiae for most schools for fear we will not be equitable.

The Board’s Charter Schools Committee on Tuesday considered ways to handle appeals of the decisions of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission.  Charter schools are designed to turn over control of many decisions that otherwise are written in stone.  We hope they are a vehicle to promote creativity and responsibility among parents, communities, and educators for improving student learning.  They are free to control class size and teacher credentials, focus on special curricula, broaden the school day, engage new partners, etc.  Seven schools were approved by the Charter Schools Commission but the decisions are being challenged by local boards or those whose applications were declined.

Likewise on Tuesday the Georgia Senate expanded the definition of a textbook and the House decided that a school could be defined as a middle school with only two of the three grades, 6, 7 and 8, that serve our early adolescents.  What?  Local schools can’t decide to spend their “textbook money” on items like kindles and computers that support student instruction?  Local boards can’t expect the state to fund children as “middle schoolers” regardless of what building they are in?  How can we unleash the creativity, energy, and common sense of our educational professionals when formulas are so prescriptive and definitions are so tight?

It must be frustrating for educators who want to aim for the stars, even the tree tops, but have to mess around in the weeds.  

Come to think of it, it may be just as frustrating for elected officials who run on platforms of hope and change and vision to spend their time micromanaging these decisions.

As the Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy at Voices for Georgia’s Children, it is my job to be the organization’s chief lobbyist under the Gold Dome and convener of potential advocates for children throughout the state.

In this challenging fiscal climate, it can be a daunting task to climb the steps to the Capitol each day as we attempt to make the case that programs and policies that are proven to have positive outcomes for children should receive legislative support. Voices and our partners are all painfully aware that we have our work cut out for us as we work to secure additional pre K slots, support the provision of quality child care, revise Georgia’s outdated Juvenile Code, and ensure that children have health coverage.
But, as I contemplate the challenges that I expect to face when the General Assembly convenes in just a few hours, I am surprised, even shocked, to find myself somewhat exhilarated. Why?
In recent weeks, I have been pleased to discover a new energy among the child advocacy and policy community to work together and a new transparency exhibited by child serving agencies. After all, there is no cost and there is much to gain through collaboration. We know that children have better outcomes when all the organizations that serve them work together, and so I am hopeful that even in this dismal economy we can spend the next 40 legislative days crafting and passing policies to improve child outcomes.
I am also looking forward to the possibilities that are open to us as advocates as we embrace new technologies.
I’m hoping that this new blog actually provides us with the opportunity to have a conversation of sorts with people across the state who want to make a difference for kids. Throughout the session, I’ll be posting daily updates describing salient developments affecting children at the legislature and useful advocacy tips. My focus will be on the issues as they move through the legislative process, not on partisan politics. I won’t have the time, space, or energy to provide an exhaustive recap of each committee meeting or speech made on the floor of the House or Senate. There are plenty of places on the web that you can go to if that is your preference. Instead, I hope to use my space to share with you the most important actions and developments each day for kids and, when appropriate, tips on how to advocate effectively. My colleagues will provide commentaries, analysis, and, hopefully, a little inspiration from time to time. Please feel free to comment often!

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