Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski has said that children are his number one priority and just yesterday proposed “increasing cigarette taxes by nearly 85 cents Monday to give health coverage to thousands of uninsured Oregon children,” according to The Oregonian.
But the truth is that few politicians of either party are taking the needs of children seriously and a new report confirms that.
September 26, 2006 – Oregon earned a grade of “D+” in overall child well-being in the Children First for Oregon annual Report Card on the Status of Children issued today. As the state passes another target year for benchmarks set by the Oregon Progress Board, the data show downward trends and sluggish progress in several areas, resulting in another year of disappointing grades. Modest improvements since last year in the Family Financial Stability category are encouraging, but stronger political and public will are needed to move the state in the right direction.
“If your children continued to bring home C’s and D’s on their report cards, wouldn’t you do something?” asked Robin Christian, Executive Director of Children First. “Wishful thinking won’t improve these grades – it’s time to act and step up our investments in programs that work.”
The ongoing decrease in the teen pregnancy rate and improvements in reading and math scores among 3rd graders are bright spots, but grades in three of the five categories – Health, Early Care & Education, and Child Welfare – continue to languish. Oregon is held back by its failures, which include: 117,000 uninsured children; nearly 6,400 eligible 3 and 4-year-olds unable to access Head Start; and 11,255 known victims of child abuse or neglect.
“Candidates running for office should look at this report card and ask themselves what they can do to get us to an “A” grade, and voters need to pay close attention to what they propose” said Christian. “A lack of solutions isn’t the problem. We know what we need to do. What we lack is the courage to act.”
FIVE STEPS TO HELP GET OREGON TO AN “A” GRADE:
1. Protect Our Investments: Defeat Measures 41 and 48 at the ballot in November.
2. Stabilize State Revenue: Convert the corporate kicker tax refund into a “rainy day” fund.
3. Increase Access to Health Care: Enroll all children currently eligible for the Oregon Health Plan (approximately 67,000 of the 117,000 uninsured children).
4. Improve Outcomes for Abused and Neglected Children: Increase supports to foster families, including relatives, and expand the availability of proven substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.
5. Invest in Early Childhood: Fully fund Head Start/Oregon Prekindergarten and strengthen the state’s child care subsidy program for working families.
SUMMARY OF 2006 GRADES:
Family Financial Stability: C
Early Care and Education: D-
Youth Development and Education: C
Child Welfare: D
Click here to learn more.
If the governor wants to campaign on being a children’s advocate he will need to more forcefully address the issues raised by this report. His plan to increase health care for children is the kind of bold step needed (one sadly rejected by his opponent).
Related Post: Oregon Candidates For Governor Address Poverty (Sort Of)