Numbers don’t lie

To the Journal editor:

With holiday commercials gone, the 2014 election blitz soon will begin. But in the coming months of stump speeches, attack ads and debates, it’s unlikely you’ll hear much about our most pressing issue: the future of children and families in Michigan.

Most voters agree that children’s lives are worse today than they were 10 years ago, and that our own children will face more challenges ahead. Recent data back them up. Child poverty is up 34 percent since 2005, while the families of nearly 207,000 children – the highest number in 22 years – were investigated for abuse and neglect in 2012.

In the Upper Peninsula, one quarter of all kids were living in poverty while more than a third of kids ages 0-5 qualified for federal food assistance in 2012. Fully 960 kids suffered abuse or neglect that year, up 40 percent since 2005, according to the latest Kids Count in Michigan Data Book.

Here’s the good news. Voters like you want to help. Even those who believe government provides too much want the federal budget to prioritize investments in children. But while voters are deeply concerned about our children, families and communities, candidates will not talk about it unless you ask, and ask you must.

Among issues facing those we elect this November:

– Congress will decide whether the federal Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, which lifts five million children out of poverty every year, will shelter more children or fewer from poverty’s reach.

– With more than one-third of Michigan children in homes affected by hunger, and nearly half of food stamp funds going to children, Congress will decide which children get fed and which go hungry.

– Congress also could advance a proposed federal-state preschool partnership that would have immediate and lasting educational benefits for our youngest and most vulnerable children.

– State leaders must look to advance infant and toddler programming to close literacy and other gaps that appear as early as nine months.

– Legislators also could raise Michigan’s subsidized child care rates to help parents keep working and supporting their families.

– And lawmakers could better target workforce development and educational resources toward the most challenged young people and families.

These decisions can change our trajectory and help families regain economic footing. But you must speak up. Children and families don’t have high-priced lobbyists, superPACs, or nationwide ads. They do have us. And in a democracy, that’s still enough to make a real difference.

Michele Corey, interim president Michigan’s Children