Children learn what they see. When they hear the President is inviting guests to the White House for more than a dozen holiday parties, they rightfully have a hard time understanding why they can’t see their grandparents and cousins during the holidays. Most of us yearn for the President to set an example so that everyone, especially children, understand the importance of taking every feasible precaution to protect our health and that of others.
Fortunately, not all of our elected leaders are following the President’s ill-advised example. Some are doing and saying exactly what is needed to support children in this time of crisis.
Here’s some breaking news to prove the point. As result of COVID, and millions of advertising dollars targeted at parents, tens of thousands of SEPA children are now enrolled in cyber schools, exposing them to 14 of the lowest performing schools in the state where for-profit companies extract financial gains, school districts pay the bill, and children by and large don’t learn.
Given the pressures of COVID it seemed inevitable that the state would approve two new cyber schools. But in Pennsylvania, fact prevailed. In response to powerful testimony that PCCY and other expert organizations provided, the state examined our evidence and decided the best interest of children was served by rejecting the application of a failed cyber charter school hoping to expand its weak model from Ohio into PA. (The other application is still being reviewed.)
There’s another example of a Chief Executive putting children first in the time of crisis. We joined with 35 child-serving organizations to tell Mayor Kenney that the “message sent by the shooting of Walter Wallace is that our children cannot rely on anyone, even the government, to protect their loved ones in a time of mental health crisis.” We asked for a meeting to explore ways to reassure children that police officers can and must protect them and their parents in times of crisis. It took only a matter of minutes after receipt of the letter for Mayor Kenney to agree to meet with us because he immediately understood that he shares the goals expressed in the compelling request on behalf of children.
Still one of greatest long term threats to children is the complete collapse of the child care and pre-k programs due to the financial hit they are taking as parents keep their children home out of fear of contagion. We are still waiting for Pennsylvania’s Chief Executive, Governor Wolf, to respond to our request to reverse policies put in place in September that have already forced the closure of 392 child care programs across the state, 154 of them throughout the five southeastern counties. (Data compiled from PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning.) Since the Governor hasn’t yet taken any action to deal with this matter, we are asking our state lawmakers to add their voice to our call to preserve PA’s child care sector. Already they are stepping to the plate, again to do what is right and saying what is needed in this time of crisis.
This is exactly the sort of leadership our children need to see and learn.