Opinion
Equity & Diversity Opinion

This Could Be the Moment to Help the Poorest Among Us: Our Nation’s Children

The legislation, investments, and collaborative action we need
By S. Paul Reville & John B. King Jr. — March 05, 2021 4 min read
Silhouettes of people wearing face masks
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Across our nation, getting to a place where every child has the opportunity to thrive requires work both inside and outside of schools with whole communities involved. In the wealthiest nation on earth, it seems ridiculous to have to make the case that—in order for children to learn—they need access to nutritious food, good quality health care, safe and secure housing, clean water and air, and the kinds of policies that support their families’ economic viability. But, given that our country has allowed widespread childhood poverty to persist—children remain the poorest age group in America—and given the lack of leadership we’ve seen on these issues at the federal level during the Trump administration, we do have to make that case.

To be sure, our nation needs a new, bold social compact to support the well-being of our children, particularly the most vulnerable. This new compact will require federal action. It will require new investments in “people power.” And it will require the support and expansion of collaborative action in local communities. Schools cannot do all this work alone.

In terms of federal action, national leaders who are talking about equity and social justice should seize this moment of heightened public consciousness to drive significant policy changes that can eliminate food insecurity; assure increased access to high-quality health and mental-health services amid a pandemic; and expand the supply of stable, affordable housing across America.

We’re encouraged to see President Joe Biden’s recent executive action that helps working families keep a roof over their heads, increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for as many as 12 million Americans, and expand the program that provides low-income families food dollars equivalent to the value of school meals that are no longer available because of COVID-19 school closures.

On February 27, the House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan, sending the $1.9 trillion stimulus package to the Senate. We hope that the Biden administration will take additional federal action to ensure that part of the bill’s proposed $130 billion fund for K-12 schools directly supports state and local efforts to create and expand community schools. We know that community schools offer families a one-stop hub for vital connections to health and social services that help children get what they need to succeed.

A new social compact for our kids also requires investments in those professionals who can nurture healthy childhood development, putting caring, expert adults to work in service of our children in innovative ways.

For example, every child should be assigned an “adult navigator” to connect them and their families with supports and opportunities inside and outside the school system. This work is starting to happen in Nashville, Tenn., where the public schools now guarantee that every child will have an adult navigator. This could and should happen everywhere.

We also need to support and advocate legislation in states, like the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which allocates substantial resources to place a community schools coordinator and a health-services practitioner in schools that are serving 55 percent or more students living in poverty.

Similarly, we need a federal commitment to invest in people power to overcome the challenges children are facing with learning that has been interrupted as a result of COVID-19. We believe America needs a national tutoring corps, which could be created through a dramatic expansion of national service.

We are heartened that just such an effort was proposed last year by Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and a bipartisan coalition. Congress should pass this proposal immediately. Doing so would provide both the people and the urgency necessary not only for children to recover and accelerate their learning amid the pandemic but also to transform our education system so that it more equitably serves students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. Having dedicated tutors would provide the right pathway to link students back to their schoolwork, to keep families at the center of the education process, and to connect children to needed supports and opportunities.

Finally, we need to create opportunities for collaborative action in local communities. Children’s cabinets, collaborative coalitions of government agencies, and community representatives devoted to the shared goal of child well-being, represent outstanding local- and state-level examples of this work. These cabinets, now in place in dozens of cities, larger metropolitan regions, and some rural areas, help community-based leaders, nonprofits, and government agencies coordinate and communicate policies, funding, and services to close significant gaps in support. And they also offer ideal opportunities for business leaders to step up and begin to make progress for the children in their communities.

These and other strategies are urgently needed if we want to expand opportunity to all our nation’s children, grow our economy, strengthen our communities, and preserve our democracy. This is the crusade for equity and social justice to which many recently have offered tribute and for which we need decisive action now. Let’s all get to work.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Privacy & Security Webinar
K-12 Cybersecurity in the Real World: Lessons Learned & How to Protect Your School
Gain an expert understanding of how school districts can improve their cyber resilience and get ahead of cybersecurity challenges and threats.
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Trauma-Informed Schools 101: Best Practices & Key Benefits
Learn how to develop a coordinated plan of action for addressing student trauma and
fostering supportive, healthy environments.
Content provided by Crisis Prevention Institute
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Young Children Think and Talk About Race. How Should Teachers Respond?
Educators, many wary of recent restrictions on the topic, discussed the challenge at a recent professional conference.
4 min read
Image of elementary students sitting in a circle.
Pongtep Chithan/iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion 3 Reasons Your District Needs a Theory of Change for Equity Work
Even as equity and anti-racism efforts have accelerated, many equity leaders are missing this essential tool, writes a researcher.
Terrance L. Green
4 min read
House surrounded by trees under dark night sky. Movement of stars around pole star on north hemisphere. Star trails on night sky, long exposure composition
dzika_mrowka/iStock/Getty<br/>
Equity & Diversity Researchers Search for Hidden Graves at Native American Boarding Schools
The bodies of more than 80 Native American children are buried at the former Genoa Indian Industrial School in central Nebraska.
6 min read
A member of a team affiliated with the National Park Service uses ground-penetrating radar in hopes of detecting what is beneath the soil while searching for over 80 Native American children buried at the former Genoa Indian Industrial School, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, in Genoa, Neb. For decades the location of the student cemetery has been a mystery, lost over time after the school closed in 1931 and memories faded of the once-busy campus that sprawled over 640 acres in the tiny community of Genoa.
A researcher uses ground-penetrating radar last month to search for more than 80 Native American children buried at the site of the former Genoa Indian Industrial School in Genoa, Neb.
Charlie Neibergall/AP