Feb 21

What Presidents Have Done for Children…

Dana E. Friedman, Ed.D., EYI President

As we celebrate President’s Day, it might be nice to remember what various Presidents in history have done for children.  Thanks to the work of the Every Child Matters Education Fund, their accomplishments have been gathered, which I will summarize here:

  • Theodore Roosevelt – In response to the practice of removing children from poor families and sending them to orphanages, President Roosevelt hosted the first White House Conference on Care of Dependent Women and Children in 1909.  The conference led to the creation of the U.S. Children’s Bureau in 1912 and the earliest home-visiting programs.
  •   Franklin D. Roosevelt – FDR ended child labor by signing the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938.  His 1935 Social Security Act and Title V included grants to states for maternity, infant and child care.
  • Harry S. Truman – The National School Lunch Program was established by President Truman in 1946. In the first year, 7.1 million children received hot lunches; since then, over 170 billion lunches have been served. 
  • Lyndon B. Johnson – In May, 1965, President Johnson launched Head Start.  The program served 560,000 children in the summer of 1967 and 22 million children to date.  President Johnson’s War on Poverty created many other supports for children and families, including Medicaid.  
  • Richard M. Nixon – President Nixon signed into law the Women, Infants and Children program which provides nutrition education, food and referral services to pregnant, postpartum and lactating women and their infants and children up to age five. 
  • William J. Clinton – President Clinton created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to help states cover uninsured children, decreasing the number of uninsured children by one third.  There are still 9 million children in the U.S. without health insurance.
  • Barack Obama – At the beginning of his term, President Obama gave a major education speech in which he said that early childhood investment is “the first pillar of reforming our schools.”  According to Sara Mead, an education blogger, President Obama has not lived up to his promise.  She points out that other education issues have taken priority, e.g. K-12 Common Core standards and Pell grants.  He did, however, allocate $500 million of the $700 million in the federal budget for the second round of Race to the Top (RTT), which became known as the Early Learning Challenge Grants. New York applied and was not one of the nine states that won.  In the first round of RTT, the President made a big deal of it in the media and gave states plenty of time to plan and pass legislation to prepare for it. Early childhood issues did not receive the same media attention nor were states given the impetus to invest state funds first. 

 There’s still time for President Obama to leave a legacy for young children.  Now that the President’s Day Sales are over, maybe we should take the time to let the President know that the time is now.

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