This week, the New York Times featured an article from Warren Berger, the author of the wonderful book “A More Beautiful Question.” Berger reminded organizations of the power of asking, “Why?” and “What If?”
Two weeks ago you read about the data side of the recently released 2016 National Kids Count Data Book. This week I’d like to apply Berger’s interrogatives to that data.
WHY does child poverty get ignored in the political chatter in Frankfort? And WHAT IF our elected officials buckled down to really tackle the most pervasive issue affecting Kentucky kids? While comprehensive tax reform seems in the not so near future, we can, in fact, craft bipartisan, common sense measures like a state Earned Income Tax Credit, thoughtful limits to predatory lending, and continued expansion of Child Care Assistance Program eligibility. These solutions would immediately help families and be a fiscally conservative use of public dollars on proven solutions to have a long-term impact on the economic stability of families and our state.
WHY is the subpar performance of Kentucky students not jolting leaders into action? There was a recent report from two state groups that essentially celebrated that “we are no worse than anyone else.” But we cannot settle for that when 60% of 4th graders can’t read at a nationally proficient level and more than 7 in 10 8th graders can’t make the cut in math. Let me be clear, this is not about teachers and principals; folks in schools are performing with herculean effort and dedication. But instead of allowing the status quo to continue, WHAT IF — just like around child poverty — we introduced incremental, common ground, and proven measures. That means emboldening parents with public school choice. That means emboldening teachers with professional options like career ladders. That means emboldening students with an array of paths to career readiness.
Finally, in an area where there is good news – children’s health. We’ve made great progress in ensuring children have access to health coverage. As you may have heard, the Bevin Administration recently proposed changes to the Medicaid program which will likely impact many parents and indirectly impact children. There are many “WHYs?” and “WHAT IFs?” around these proposed changes. To learn more and weigh in with your comments, click here.
Some other good news for kids from Frankfort is that the Bevin Administration and leaders in both legislative chambers are asking both the “WHY?” and the “WHAT IF?” when it comes to the fundamental reform of the child welfare system. State leaders have joined with local kid champions like Kosair Charities® to ask “WHY?” and “WHAT IF?” of keeping kids safe and in loving homes.
The issue with Kentucky KIDS COUNT data is not that we dropped from 34th to 35th in overall state ranking. It’s that young people in two thirds of the other states are better off than young people in Kentucky. WHY are we as a Commonwealth content with that? WHAT IF leaders made a commitment to make Kentucky the best place in America to be young?
Berger notes, “…as questions proliferate, some good answers are likely to follow.” Our children deserve nothing less than good questions and better answers. We at KYA want to hear from you. What are your “WHYs?” and “WHAT IFs?”
What if we recognized the common truth that children who are neglected or abused are so much more likely to get involved in serious drug problems, fail to finish high school and become incarcerated, all of which costs taxpayers in Kentucky millions of dollars in direct costs and even more in indirect costs?