On Dec. 18, the Our Children, Our Future Campaign announced its 10-point platform for fighting West Virginia’s child poverty crisis in 2014.
The 10 issues were crafted through a year-long process that included 72 community meetings, two policy workshops, a policy symposium at the State Capitol in September – and ultimately a vote of more than 905 religious, business, union, youth, community and school leaders who have been involved in the campaign from across the state. The Platform will be announced this week in Clarksburg, with House Speaker Tim Miley on-hand to receive the platform and give a response. Following the announcement, leaders from North Central West Virginia held a planning meeting for how to spread the word about the platform in their region.
Senate President Kessler also expressed his support of the Campaign in a statement: “The Our Children, Out Future campaign brings people together from across the political spectrum who all care about kids. This coalition has worked hard over the last year, and I am proud to support the Our Children, Our Future campaign and look forward to working with this coalition to improve the lives of West Virginia’s children and their families.”
Last year, the Our Children, Our Future Campaign voted on five issues and achieved victories on all five (from the Feed to Achieve Act to winning back Child Care Cuts). So momentum had built for this year’s platform – with more than 700 more people voting this year, compared to last.
This year’s platform begins with the top five vote-getters: Expanding Home-Visiting and Early Childhood Programs Statewide; Raising the Minimum Wage; Protecting Family Support Programs (FRN’s and FRC’s); introducing 30 Minutes of Physical Activity into Schools; and a tie between the Future Fund and a comprehensive Substance Abuse Program (Making Sudafed a Prescription, Medicaid Direct Reimbursement, and Access). These top five issues will form the foundation of the platform and will be featured in our Regional Forums across the state during the legislative session, as well as regular action alerts, press conferences, and meetings with legislators.
The next five vote-getters were: the Future Fund, Increasing the Tobacco Tax, Piloting Parent Mentor Programs in Schools, Limiting SNAP Benefits for Sugary Drinks, Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act, and the Quality Homes, Quality Jobs Act. These five issues will also receive the endorsement of the Our Children, Our Future Campaign – and will be supported through on-line action alerts and other activities.
Today, 48 percent of West Virginia children grow up in families that don’t have enough income to make ends meet; meanwhile, less than 1.4 percent of West Virginians receive TANF (also called “welfare”) benefits.
The Campaign also announced this week two “Bonus” issues that they will be taking on this year outside the legislative process. First, the Campaign will be recruiting 10,500 new West Virginia voters to their movement – through voter registration, voter education, and health care enrollment. Second, the Campaign will work with 20+ communities to implement local solutions to the child health and poverty crises – projects like community gardens, running and walking clubs, and school feeding programs.
“This is what democracy looks like,” said Lisa Wotring, a member of the campaign and an organizer with the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition. “Kids, families, and community leaders working past their differences to fight alongside the most vulnerable families in our state. I’ve experienced poverty as a single parent, and I hope no family has to face what I faced.”
Next up: the Our Children, Our Future Campaign invites schools, congregations, afterschool programs, service agencies, and other partners to send folks to Charleston on Feb. 4 for Kids and Families Day at the Capitol – where we will advocate for these issues with our legislators. For more information about Kids and Families Day, contact Stephen Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.