This is a bit presumptuous, I admit. I’m climbing on my columnist’s soapbox and proclaiming a set of New Year’s resolutions for myself and anyone else who chooses to adopt them. They’re a little late, I admit, but with one column a month, my choice was either to write them way back in December or wait until my first opportunity this year.
So, without further ado, here are my resolutions for 2014.
I resolve to acknowledge that all children are deserving. An old 19th century term, “the undeserving poor,” has crept back into our vocabulary lately. “Why should we help the lazy, shiftless, undeserving poor who refuse to help themselves?” some people ask. Let’s save that discussion for another day. Right now, let’s agree there is no such thing as an undeserving child. Every child deserves a chance to live a happy, healthy young life and have the opportunity for a bright future.
I resolve to act like a responsible adult toward all our children. Of course we all should strive to be responsible adults when it comes to our own children, but we need to take it a step further. To the extent it’s possible, to the extent it’s reasonable, we should consider all children our responsibility.
I resolve to give our children a good start in life. Let’s begin by making sure all pregnant women have access to good prenatal care so their children are born as strong and healthy as their DNA allows. We’ve taken a good step in that direction by making healthcare more available to expectant mothers through the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid, but more needs to be done. Once children are born, let’s make every reasonable effort to assure that they have a roof over their heads, sufficient food on their plates and regular medical attention. For those children who are victims of neglect or abuse, let’s do what we can to improve their situation or move them into more nurturing environments.
I resolve to give our children the preparation they need to succeed in school. Early childhood education - preschool led by trained professionals - is one of the best ways we have to give children the social and educational experiences they need to be ready to learn and achieve once they enter kindergarten. Let’s do what we can to make quality early childhood education available to all children, not just the children of families who can afford it. And for those parents, who want more information about raising their children, let’s make parenting education readily available.
I resolve to fund education at a level sufficient to give all students the opportunity to succeed. Let’s resolve to tell our state legislators we demand that our schools receive adequate funding. Children can’t learn to the best of their abilities in overcrowded classrooms, using textbooks and technology that are scarce and outdated. And our state’s best and brightest won’t choose teaching as a profession if the pay is low and conditions are deplorable. We were in the bottom five in per student funding in 2008, and our legislature has cut funding 21 percent since then. First, let’s bring funding levels back to 2008 levels. Then, let’s gradually raise funding until it reaches the U.S. average, at least, so our children have the same educational opportunities as children in other states.
Unlike all those resolutions we make to lose weight and exercise more that tend to fall by the wayside before the end of January, let’s make an effort to actually keep these resolutions. Let’s keep them for the best and most selfish of reasons, both because we care about the children who are our responsibility, and because we want to live in a state that’s thriving and economically competitive with other states. Our children’s lives, their futures and the future of Arizona hang in the balance.