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Our country is in the midst of a series of interrelated crises at a time when it is vital we take the action necessary to address them.
First, pregnancy rates among young disadvantaged women have increased significantly in this country. Yet legislatures in the last five years five years have tripled the number of abortion restrictions and conservative legislators are now trying to cut funding from Planned Parenthood.
Second, child poverty rates have increased dramatically nation wide as well as in our region as more and more families are without jobs and, therefore, without the resources needed to adequately provide for their families. In one of the schools I am associated with we see a growing number of students needing free and reduced lunches
World Bank studies show that there is a causal link between under- nourished children and “delayed growth, behavior problems and lower educational achievement.” In Missouri 24% of our children, or 354,520 children, are in “food insecure households”. Furthermore “49 percent of all children born in this country are born to families who receive food supplements.” This comes at a time when there is tremendous political pressure from the right to cut back on food subsidies, and student transportation when what we need right now just the opposite. And there is proposed legislation in Washington focusing on further cuts of nutrition supplements, and enacting stricter abortion rights legislation.
We must reverse these harsh restrictions for the good of our children and our region. During past recessions (Roosevelt’s era) our country survived on more spending. Jobs were made available, and additional resources for schools were encouraged.
We want a state and city that is prosperous with educated workers who have jobs so they can provide for their families. We want a state and city that have vision, that can afford significant, not meager, funds for education and social services. We want to build a community that is creative, inventive and well educated so that we can attract the best and the brightest in all fields. But to do that we must lay the foundation now and that means fighting for the resources necessary to educate children and put people to work. It also means jump starting new programs so that families can find work. There are cities that are doing that right now. Pittsburgh, for one, has become an inventive and prosperous city as its businesses and universities are collaborating to provide the best working environments possible. We have those same high quality educational institutions and businesses in St. Louis.
We need to collaborate now and develop a plan that will put people to work, successfully educate our future work force, and press both the city and the county to collaborate in serious ways while we ratchet up our efforts make this region viable. Then we can truly say that St. Louis is once again a leader in the nation.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Susan Uchitelle is a consultant for the Voluntary Interdistrict Coordinating Council.