Lawmakers across the country descend on their state capitols this month to begin a new round of legislative discussions. In Austin, the 85th Texas Legislature has begun, and lawmakers are already filing bills based on their policy priorities. And in Washington, D.C., Donald Trump ascends to the highest seat in the land as the nation's President. With a Republican majority in the House and the Senate, our country, as seen through the headlines, is preparing for new conversations about existing and new laws and policies.
What I found interesting last year through all the campaign debates was the focus on three key issues: national security, workforce and healthcare. We can align every single campaign platform and promise at the local, state and national levels along these three issues. Sure, there were periodic mentions of education, the environment and trade, but these were the core issues that voters said most worried them.
But a forward thinking nation should put one agenda above everything else: children. Every policy we advocate for and every reform initiative we implement should always go back to how it benefits the youngest generation that will eventually subsume the impact, effects and results of policies we pass in the present. That is why it is important to put children’s issues first and foremost regardless of political party or affiliation. Let us take the three key issues that were highly debated last year, and look at them through a lens that puts children first:
National security: This is not just a matter of immigration policy, intelligence improvement, or improving homeland security. How do we ensure that our most vulnerable population, children, are safe in their homes and schools? How can we improve how our public institutions are working together and coordinating efforts so that first and foremost we can guarantee the safety and well-being of our children wherever they are?
Workforce: Are we putting in place the education strategies that will ensure children who are in school now will be college and career ready? Are we investing in the children-centered strategies that bring positive growth in learning?
Healthcare: Regardless of approach, how can we assure that every child has health coverage?
Adults make decisions on behalf of children, who, for the most part, do not have a voice in the deliberative legislative process. Yes, there are children and youth advocates, but advocates often end up fighting against decisions already made within the sacred walls of national and state capitols. We need to begin these processes with children first. After all, we try to build an economy, a solid workforce, a comprehensive and affordable health care system, so that we can raise our families knowing that we all stand on solid and secure ground.
Children's issues are nonpartisan issues. Children’s well-being is the single, most common denominator that unites us. We can all agree that we do not want children to be at risk at any point in their lives. Perhaps the process of national re-building, in a very politically divided climate, can begin if we start putting children first in our respective policy agendas.