Report: Presidential debates discussed child issues less than 2 percent of the time
Child advocates decry a lack of focus on child health, poverty, and education
WASHINGTON – Voices for America’s Children, the nation’s largest network of multi-issue child advocacy organizations, today released an updated report tracking questions about child policy – like education, child health, child safety, and child poverty – raised in the first 20 presidential debates. The new edition examines each of the transcripts of the Republican presidential debates beginning with Greenville, SC, on May 5, 2011, and ending in Mesa, Arizona on February 22, 2012.
“While children represent 24 percent of the population and 100 percent of our future, questions about their future constituted less than 2 percent of all questions raised in those debates,” said Bill Bentley, president and CEO of Voices for America’s Children. “America’s more than 74 million children can’t vote, but they should be heard, especially in a time of widespread hardship for families.”
The report shows that candidates at the 20 Republican Party presidential debates fielded more than 1,000 questions on national security, the economy, immigration, social security, the federal deficit, and other issues, yet only 17 questions on education, child health, welfare and poverty. No questions were fielded on child protection, early childhood education, or children with disabilities.
“Voters are concerned about their children’s and grandchildren’s futures,” said Charles Bruner, executive director of the Child and Family Policy Center, a Voices member and co-author of the report. “How the federal government responds to children and their needs in these areas is critical to the nation’s future prosperity, and needs to be part of the presidential election dialogue and debate.”
The report also cited Kids Share, a study by Brookings and the Urban Institute, which shows that the federal government spends $374 billion annually for child health, safety, nutrition, education, and economic security programs, about one-third of all federal, state, and local public investments in children’s programs.
“This analysis reveals the growing disconnect between voters and campaign rhetoric,” says Roy Miller, head of The Children’s Campaign in Florida and chair of the Voices civic engagement initiative. “The divide goes beyond candidates being stuck to their all-too-familiar scripts and attack strategies on each other. The debate moderators bear some responsibility for content.”
“We’ve heard a lot from the candidates about the economy, as we should,” said Eileen Garcia, CEO of Voices member Texans Care for Children. “But these statements have been said in a vacuum that neglects the economic harm to and impact of the 15 million children who drop out of school and the 8 million children without health coverage. If candidates want to demonstrate real concern for our economy and the well-being of America’s families, they must put children at the forefront of their platforms”
Members of Voices for America’s Children have signed a resolution calling for increased attention to children’s issues, which will be submitted to presidential candidates and candidates for Congress through members organizations and their policy coalitions.
Read the report here: http://voices.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Election-2012-Debate-Watch-Update.pdf
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As the nation’s largest network of multi-issue child advocacy organizations, Voices for America’s Children (Voices) has been on the forefront of every major child policy victory for the past quarter-century. With 62 members nationwide, Voices speaks up for kids, and mobilizes and advocates for public policies to improve the lives of all children, especially those most vulnerable, throughout the United States. Visit us at www.voices.org.
Voices is a founding member of the Children’s Leadership Council, a coalition of more than 50 leading national policy and advocacy organizations. www.childrensleadershipcouncil.com.