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Making Children Part of the Debate

Government-funded preschool programs serve fewer than half of U.S. children. (San Josť Library/Flickr)
Government-funded preschool programs serve fewer than half of U.S. children. (San Josť Library/Flickr)
September 26, 2016

NEW YORK – The first presidential debate is scheduled for Monday night and advocates want to know what the candidates plan to do for children.

When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off in Hempstead, N. Y., advocates for children want them to lay out their plans to meet the needs of the nation's youngest citizens.

Jennifer March, executive director of the Citizens Committee for Children of New York, said she believes that instituting a strong agenda for early childhood programs in the first 100 days of the next administration would be a good start.

"An ambitious effort to make sure that infant-toddler child care and preschool are readily available, high-quality and affordable across income ranges would have a phenomenal impact,” March said.

For now, Head Start and other preschool programs funded by federal, state and local sources serve fewer than half of all children in the country.

Children at all income levels should be able to set their sights on an affordable college education, March said. But the candidates also must address the needs of the 5.5 million 16- to 24-year-olds who are not in school and not working.

"How do we actually make sure we're improving educational attainment - skill-building - in ways that insure household heads and young adults have a wage that allows them to meet their basic needs?” March asked.

Currently, an estimated 43 percent of children born into poverty will remain there as adults.

March said she thinks the candidates also need to think "outside of the box” as they look for ways to improve the welfare of children.

"What are the basic fundamentals that should exist in any urban or rural community?” March asked. "Things like parks and playgrounds, good transportation options, affordable food retail."

The first vice presidential debate is scheduled for Tues., Oct. 4, at Longwood University in Farmville, Va.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY