This year, as legislatures begin session across the country, there is a feeling of hope and anticipation. Lawmakers were elected by members of their community to make improvements to their quality of life. With that in mind, NPU is urging legislators to prioritize the one group who is the most at risk right now: KIDS.
Generation A is the first generation to have spent a major part of their childhood witnessing the effects of an unprecedented pandemic. Generation A is extremely far behind academically: just 26% of 8th grade students met grade level standards for math and just 31% were proficient in reading on NAEP in 2022. According to the National Survey on Children’s Health, the number of children struggling with anxiety and or depression has jumped by 1.5 million kids since the beginning of the pandemic. Nationally, about 1 out of every 10 children is struggling with mental health issues. And lastly, families across the country are being hammered by rising costs of everyday items, the biggest increase in housing costs since it was recorded 34 years ago.
Families and kids across this country need a lifeline.
All this makes me wonder:
Are our lawmakers paying enough attention to hard working families and the wellness of our children?
Legislative sessions across the country will have that answer. As lawmakers file bills and schedule committee hearings, we need parents to show up and remind lawmakers that they better be making changes that will positively impact kids and families across the country.
With that in mind, NPU is working with lawmakers on the following key priorities that we believe will improve the quality of life for kids and families across the country:
SUPPORT FOR THE EXPANSION OF POVERTY REDUCTION INITIATIVES: Congress allowed a key poverty reduction initiative (the expanded child tax credit) to expire even though it reduced child poverty in our country by half in just one year. Policies like tax credits, increased eligibility for family support programs like SNAP and WIC all lead to better childhoods for kids. Now is the time for states to be leading the way in programs the federal government has let expire.
PATHWAYS TO COLLEGE AND CAREER: We believe that in order to address the serious crisis of economic opportunity, schools should facilitate connections and partnerships with outside organizations of employment to help 11 and 12 graders realize their full potential with high wage, high skill and high demand employment. Schools should also be able to connect students with individualized pathways plans, dual enrollment and career connected programming. We need our state legislators to come to the table and support creative solutions to ensure that we don’t lose the kids who missed the opportunities to grow up in a normal high school environment.
INCREASING ACCESS TO HIGH QUALITY CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT: The science of reading and science of math instruction matters. Instructors need training on the latest research of how to effectively teach reading and math. Additionally, we know that overwhelmed parents across the country use assessment to understand whether their kid is on track. Protecting high quality assessment practices and supporting strong interventions for struggling school districts is imperative to ensuring that every child has access to a life of opportunity.
INCREASING TIME IN SCHOOL TO ENSURE ACCELERATION IS POSSIBLE: Kids need more time to catch up and policymakers need to step up and make that possible for them. NPU will support extended learning opportunity legislation that gives parents stipends for after school learning, access to high quality tutoring programs, extended school year and summer school for all kids.
ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT: Parents are overwhelmed and need help supporting their students. Students deserve to be safe, healthy and feel supported at school. We believe that supporting public/private partnerships with mental health providers, adopting strong social emotional learning curriculum and training staff on trauma informed crisis intervention is the key to building the adequate support systems around our kids to help them improve their mental health.
INCREASING ACCESS TO PARENT CHOICE AND HIGH-QUALITY OPTIONS: Parents deserve access to a variety of accountable school options to ensure that each unique learner has an environment they can thrive in. The National Parents Union is proud to support policies that give unique learners multiple options, and we believe adamantly that antiquated laws that limit access to great schools by a students’ zip code should be eliminated.
As we move into the legislative session, we urge policy makers to connect with parents, learn from them and listen to what they need for their family to thrive. Making this year the Year of the Kid is a moment we cannot miss. If we do, the future will inevitably look different.