It’s About Priorities

When I read that Senator Manchin was backing out of the Build Back Better bill, my anger shot up faster than a rocket blasts into space. Tim reminds me that progress advances in fits and spurts. That in time, Americans will come together and invest in our children. Here is the thing, I don’t want to be patient. It’s what I’ve heard for decades about maternity leave for mothers, equal pay, to name a few. But he has a point. Drenched in emotions does not make for clear thinking. If people vote for politicians who prioritize business before children, so be it. Then that is what we want. 

My thirty-year teaching career in a low-income city outside Detroit (Roseville) brought me face-to-face with the reality of low-income families. Children who only knew food insecurities came to school sick because their parents couldn’t afford a day off. Toothaches, head lice, and runny noses were the norm. 

Lunch at a public child care in Denmark

Black Detroit mothers drove their kids to Roseville because the district had open enrollment. Our school was a better choice than their rat-infested schools with broken windows in the inner city. But, we may be okay with this inequality as long as it doesn’t affect our grandchildren. 

We have enough money to invest in developing laser-guided bullets, but not to fund education so teachers don’t have to buy their chalk. Is that what we want? 

We can afford the recent $768 billion increase in annual spending for the military. We can’t afford $40 billion for universal preschool and childcare. Is that what we want?

Americans’ interest to reduce poverty in the elderly is far greater than looking out for our children living in poverty. In other words, we prioritize the elderly over children. Since the 1960s, we’ve become far less equal as a society. Those with growing investment portfolios often feel no connection to the poor. It’s much harder to ignore children-in-need when they are in your classroom or live next door. Politicians and immoral pundits have convinced many voters that government assistance for those struggling among us will cause their taxes to increase. (Fear is a powerful block to progress.)

When it comes to prioritizing our kids, we are at the bottom of the heap. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report, “Education at a Glance 2021,” and the Hamilton Project list how much countries spend per year per child on childcare and programs for youngsters in the first few years of their lives.  

Norway: $29,726

Finland: $23,353

Germany: $18,656

United States: $500 

Well, $500 is at least something. Isn’t poverty the fault of lazy parents (not lack of opportunities or living wages)? Our vote will reflect our way of thinking.  

The Basic Facts About Children in Poverty

We are the wealthiest country globally and we don’t support women-in-need by way of maternity leave or childcare. The closure of childcare facilities during COVID-19 showed the importance of affordable childcare. 

Congress raised statutory caps on discretionary spending (2018-2020), but children didn’t receive their fair share of those increases. The share of federal spending on children continued to decline between 2016-2020. Build Better attempts to reverse this trend.

It’s about priorities.  


OECD report.
The Basic Facts About Children in Poverty
The State of America’s Children

2 thoughts on “It’s About Priorities

  1. Right on Edith! Thank you and I hope your words reach the necessary ears! The graph and numbers you shared are mind boggling

    Sent from my iPhone, Deborah Lightfield



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