This piece originally appeared in HuffPost Impact.
Presidential candidates often mention children are our future. And it’s true. But we must do more than state this obvious fact. We need to learn how exactly candidates plan to invest in our future by investing directly in kids. The rationale for doing so is clear.
By age 5, a child’s brain is already 90 percent developed, yet two out of five American children are not enrolled in preschool. This is outrageous, especially since the type of environment and the quality of interaction children are exposed to during the first five years of life greatly influence the outcomes of their adult lives.
And tragically, each year 5.9 million children around the world under age 5 – nearly half of whom are infants – die from preventable causes like pneumonia, dehydration and diarrhea. This adds up to 16,000 kids dying every day. In addition, 800 women die every day due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
The vast majority of these deaths occur in the developing world and could be prevented with simple, inexpensive solutions such as sterile tools to cut umbilical cords and access to antibiotics to treat otherwise routine medical complications.
At Save the Children Action Network (SCAN), we believe every child deserves the best start in life. That’s why our “High 5 for Kids” campaign asks presidential candidates how they plan to invest in kids – both at home and around the world – if they are elected.
I was encouraged when Hillary Clinton brought up early childhood education during the first Democratic debate in October, noting it as a way for children to succeed.
“We need to be committed to making it possible for every child to live up to his or her God-given potential,” she said halfway through the debate. “That is really hard to do if you don’t have early childhood education.”
In Iowa last month, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio spoke with some of SCAN’s student volunteers, telling them he has “always been a supporter of” early childhood education.
A few weeks earlier, during the GOP debate in Wisconsin, Senator Rubio expressed support for childcare tax credits, citing the fact that childcare costs more than college in 35 out of 50 states.
In South Carolina, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently discussed his concern about the survival of mothers and children around the world.
“I think we could become a lot more secure and earn a lot more goodwill [. . .] by protecting moms and children,” he said, adding that investing only pennies a day would help pay for the medicine needed to help kids dying of preventable causes like diarrhea.
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley and Republican candidates Jeb Bush and John Kasich have also spoken with SCAN staff and volunteers in Iowa about early childhood education.
We will continue to press the candidates around the presidential debates, including:
- Encouraging the moderators to ask the candidates to share their positions on early childhood education
- Going directly to the candidates and asking them to raise the issue
- Engaging our supporters, as well as our coalition partners, through social media
Additionally, we are sponsoring two upcoming debates in Manchester, N.H.: the Democratic debate on Dec. 19 and the Republican debate on Feb. 6. We will encourage moderators and candidates alike to talk about early learning and ending preventable deaths of mothers and kids around the world. Our High 5 for Kids mascot, Palmer, shown below, will join us outside the debates’ venue as well.
As the voice for kids, SCAN is working to ensure the next president of the United States recognizes the importance of investing in kids and takes action to ensure every child has the best start in life. You can join us by signing up for our email alerts and using #High5forKids and #InvestInKids on social media to help us spread the word about kids’ issues.
Through the High 5 for Kids campaign, we’re working to make sure all children succeed in school and life.