Since the Children’s Defense Fund last published our annual State of America’s Children report in February 2020, our children have experienced a year of unprecedented upheaval due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a racial reckoning years in the making. Every aspect of children’s lives has been impacted by these shifts more quickly than data can track; even the most recent available data sets do not fully encompass how this past year has shaped our lives. This, of course, includes our 2021 State of America’s Children report. Because, as one element of the report makes clear, “Our Children are Not Immune.”
236 organizations wrote to President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris urging them to boost the economy, tackle racial disparities, and provide much-needed stimulus to help all Americans weather the pandemic and the associated recession by using executive authority to cancel federal student debt on Day One of their administration.
America’s Schools Provide Much More than Lessons; Children Out of School in America Need Congressional Action Now
When children are not attending school in person, they are not only missing out on vital education that is hard to deliver virtually; they are also abruptly without services they rely on and support from educators and professionals trained to connect them with resources and ensure their most urgent needs are met. As many schools returned to virtual instruction this fall, students are approaching almost a full year without those supports and services—which include access to healthy food, care for their physical and mental health, caring adults tasked with ensuring their safety, and federally mandated supports for marginalized students.
CDF Joins the Call for the Department of Education to Withdraw the Rule that Would Divert More Funds to Private Schools
We joined leading organizations to express our opposition to the Department of Education's interim final rule on "CARES Act Program; Equitable Services to Students and Teachers in Non-Public Schools" and particularly to the scenario provided that would require school districts to divert more funds to private school students in the name of the CARES Act's "equitable services" provision than is required under the law. This interim rule does not prioritize students facing the greatest barriers to education success.
CDF Joined Over 80 National Organizations Calling for Congress to Enact New Pandemic Relief Legislation to Reduce the Harms of the Health and Economic Crisis
We urge Congress to enact new pandemic relief legislation that can effectively reduce the harsh scope of the health and economic crisis engulfing our nation. Congress must approve (1) cash and other assistance to prevent devastating and long-term losses to the jobless and families; (2) protections and resources to create conditions for a safe return to work; (3) state and local aid to ensure adequate health care, education, and many other essential services; and (4) Congress must protect mainstays of our democracy from being undermined by the pandemic: safe voting; the U.S. Postal Service; and the decennial Census.
CDF Urges Congress to Include Robust Education and Health Funding in the Next COVID-19 Relief Package
we urge Congress to include robust funding for education in the next legislative package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, we urge at least $200 billion in additional funding for K-12 education and programs that support marginalized students that are most likely to be affected by missing in-person instruction. Money must be available to all schools regardless of their timeline for reopening. Schools in areas with high rates of COVID-19 spread may need to consider delaying a return to fulltime in-person instruction, and these schools will need the same or greater federal investments, not fewer. In addition, we strongly urge Congress to increase the federal government’s share of Medicaid costs by raising the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) at least another 5.8 percentage points.
The tragedies that have occurred in schools across the country demand serious investments in evidence-based policies and practices that keep children and staff safe and do not exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline, further criminalize marginalized children, or increase the over-policing of students in schools and communities. In order to ensure that students are learning in safe, healthy, and inclusive environments, we seek PK-12 school climate legislation that meets the following principles. We ask members of Congress to fulfill their role in helping educators and communities create and maintain safe schools that afford all students equal educational opportunities by incorporating these principles into all relevant legislation.
Congress take immediate and comprehensive action to ensure equal educational opportunity during the COVID-19 public health crisis and beyond. Long term closures of early childhood settings, K12 schools, and college campuses, necessary to protect the safety and health of communities, have significantly exacerbated longstanding inequities in our educational system. Leadership and action from Congress can, and must, minimize the harm to marginalized students as long as COVID-19 continues to threaten the public health.
Nearly 400 Organizations Call for a Boost in Funding for Needed Services in the Labor-HHS-Education Bill
We believe that the long-term impact of COVID-19 and the outcomes of future pandemics will be catastrophic if we do not provide robust investments through annual appropriations. Therefore, we urge Congress to commit to improving the lives of Americans by significantly boosting the allocation for the Labor-HHS-Education bill for FY 2021 to support needed services for the American public.
A society must be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable—and most valuable—members: its children. The State of America’s Children 2020 makes it abundantly clear that by this measure, America is falling shamefully short.