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2015 Was a Year of Kids Action, But We Have More to Do
Common Sense Kids Action was launched in 2015 in the spirit of making kids our nation’s top priority. As 2015 comes to a close, there is a lot to be proud of in our fight to protect and expand opportunities for children. There is also no question that we have a lot more work to do.
From early childhood education and health care to expanding access to broadband, we saw some progress in policy areas that will improve the lives of kids everywhere. It is worth taking stock of the ways in which kids lives' will improve thanks to policy decisions made in 2015 -- and to realize just how much more work needs to be done.
Many of the most important victories for kids came at the state level.
This year, our landmark student privacy legislation in California, the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA), became the model for similar legislation in 15 states, with more expected to come in 2016. The law was adopted in three others -- Oregon, Delaware, and New Hampshire -- and will now establish new protections that will help keep kids and families, and their most private information, safe.
In Michigan, lawmakers responded to public pressure and protected the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, considered one of the most effective government programs to help lift families out of poverty and put them on the path to greater economic security.
We saw a renewed focus on quality early childhood education in Massachusetts, Florida, and Texas, and in California we created the Right Start Commission to develop a plan to modernize California's early childhood learning and support systems and provide universal access to these improved systems for children from birth to age 5. The commission's report, which will be released in early 2016, will be designed to serve as a national model.
Also in California, Sen. Ricardo Lara's bill extending health coverage to all children, regardless of immigration status, was a big victory for kids, andCalifornia's new minimum wage kicks in on January 1, with an increase to $10 per hour -- another important step in the ongoing fight to offer a living wage to families and those who provide care for the kids of working families.
As the economy stabilizes, California's state budget includes welcome investments in our schools, teachers, and technology. It also made some welcome investments in early childhood services, adding 7,030 new preschool slots and 6,800 childcare slots while providing rate increases to help cover the costs of quality care.
We are also proud that in Washington, D.C., the FCC approved the first step in helping low-income homes afford broadband access, which will help close the homework gap. Common Sense will continue to fight for every home and classroom to have quality access in 2016, both in the halls of power and in communities. In partnership with Univision, we launched ¡Avanzamos Connectados! (Connected, We Advance!), a campaign to highlight the importance of connectivity for kids’ educational success -- and we are partnering with ConnectHome, a federal effort to connect low-income housing units.
Finally, in the just-enacted reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Congress approved new support for early childhood education and training for early childhood teachers. Now we need to make sure it gets funded next year.
These policy changes are moving us in the right direction, but there is so much more to do to truly make kids our nation's top priority.
Putting kids first is not only good public policy, it's just plain common sense -- and Common Sense Kids Action is looking forward to continuing our work to build a coalition of families and business and policy leaders who are committed to fundamentally changing the way we make decisions in this country to a “kids first” approach.