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NYSUT, partners launch 'One-in-Five' campaign to combat cycle of childhood poverty


Thu, Jan 25th 2024 05:05 pm

New York State United Teachers and a coalition of child, family and community stakeholders have announced their combined push to confront the root causes and harsh effects of poverty that impact hundreds of thousands of children across the state.

A press release stated, “Nearly one in five New York children live in poverty, a rate that exceeds the national average and overall poverty rates in both the state and country. In New York – a state with a GDP of over $2 trillion and home to 135 billionaires and 340,000 millionaires – this is unacceptable.

“More than 700,000 children enter our classrooms every day with the burdens of homelessness, unaddressed health concerns, lack of basic hygiene products, and the stigma and stress surrounding a life of poverty. If children are worried about survival, they will be unable to learn. [See fact sheet.]

“Childhood poverty isn't inevitable. It is the result of local, state and federal policy choices. The ‘One-in-Five’ coalition is supporting a slate of initial measures to tackle this crisis on multiple fronts and support the futures our children deserve.”

These include:

√ The Working Families Tax Credit (S277A Gounardes/ A4022-A Hevesi);

√ Mothers and Lasting Change (S4578 Ramos/ A 6197-A Clark);

√ S1875 Brouk/A4408 Reyes, which supports Medicaid services for students through school-based health centers;

√ S7747 Brouk /A8146 Gonzalez-Rojas, which ensures children who are eligible for public health insurance continue to receive coverage until age of 6;

√ Affordable housing;

√ Universal school meals; and

√ $100 million in categorical funding to potentially double the number of community schools in New York.

New York State United Teachers President Melinda Person said, “A child’s capacity for creativity and growth – even the ability to experience the joy of learning – is blocked by the effects of poverty. If we really want to address deeply rooted issues that are affecting our students' ability to learn and demonstrate their learning, and if we really want every student to live up to their natural potential, we need to stop ignoring New York’s child poverty problem and use the enormous amount of resources in our state to address it.”

New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said, “First and foremost, the New York State AFL-CIO sees this as a social justice issue. There is no disputing that, when children lack access to proper nutrition, secure housing and other critical social and health services, it puts them at a disadvantage. That is why the entire union movement is united in ensuring that all children start on a level playing field, which can be accomplished by providing families with the support they need for food, housing and health care. It is the best way to improve a child’s health and mental well-being, which bolsters their ability to learn and thrive.”

Andrès Vives, executive director of Hunger Solutions New York and co-lead of the Healthy School Meals for All New York Kids Coalition, said, “We especially appreciate NYSUT’s continued advocacy for Healthy School Meals for All, a vital support for student wellbeing. More than one in seven children in New York face food insecurity. School meals are a far-reaching anti-hunger program – but only if kids have access, free of stigma or paperwork barriers. In this year’s state budget, New York can and must extend no-cost school breakfast and lunch to all students across the state, ensuring children’s access to the meals they need to learn and thrive.”

Citizen Action of New York Deputy Executive Director Rebecca Garrard said, “Childhood poverty is an escalating crisis in this state and throughout our nation. In order to address this crisis, we must pass policies such as Mothers and Infants Lasting Change to ensure that all children, regardless of race or ZIP code, are able to thrive.”

New York State Council of Churches Executive Director the Rev. Peter Cook said, “A statewide housing access program would be one of the most cost-effective ways to provide low-income people with permanent housing. Availability of vouchers reduces reliance on much more expensive programs for people who are precariously housed or homeless. Homeless programs are particularly tough on children who move from shelter to shelter instead of having a safe and stable home environment, which vouchers will make possible.”

Alliance for Quality Education Interim Co-Executive Director Marina Marcou-O'Malley said, "Children live intersectional lives. In New York, we have the capacity and the resources to give expectant moms what they need, to feed every child or student, to make sure that our public schools can have doctors or mental health professionals and all the services they need to take care of children. We also have the capacity to provide housing, health care and stability to every child. Do we have the will?” 

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