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Poll Shows Pennsylvanians Want Investments in Kids More Than Tax Cut

Abraham, Law Enforcement Leaders Join Children's Service Providers to Say These Investments Cut Crime

For more information, contact
Joyce Johnson
Phone: 804/492-4519
Cell: 703/980-7641

May 18, 2001, Philadelphia, PA -- A new poll shows Pennsylvania voters overwhelmingly say increased funding for child abuse prevention, child care, and after-school programs is a higher priority than a tax cut. The results were announced by an unusual alliance of law enforcement leaders and children's service agencies.

Leaders of the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and the anti-crime group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, announced the poll results at City Hall today.

"Pennsylvania voters want Congress to assure these investments in kids first, and then use excess funds for tax cuts, not give away the money needed to help kids get the right start," said Sanford Newman, president of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids said, "Law enforcement leaders know school readiness, child care, after-school programs and programs that prevent child abuse are powerful weapons against crime."

Liz Meitner, director of public policy for CWLA, said, "The budget fight in Congress is far from over. Monday, on the Senate floor, Senators will be asked to vote on important amendments to put kids first."

"This poll confirms our belief that most people would prefer helping distressed children and families to taking the largest tax cut possible," Meitner said. "It's about investments in all of our futures. Once again, the public is way ahead of many politicians."

Regardless of their age or party affiliation, the state's voters favored investing in programs to help children and families. Four out of five voters (81.4%) said they would support a smaller tax cut if it meant more funding for programs that reduce child abuse and neglect. Seven in ten voters (71.2%) would support a smaller tax cut in order to fund after-school, child care, and school readiness programs like Head Start. In contrast, only about half (55.7%) would support a smaller tax cut in order to build new highways, and only two-fifths (40.4%) would support a smaller tax cut if it meant more funds for advanced military weapons and the national missile defense shield. Seventy-three percent of those responding believed that government has a role in preventing and treating child abuse and neglect.

The telephone poll was conducted between May 8 and May 10 and involved more than 600 registered voters throughout Pennsylvania. The margin of error is 4%.

"Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter played a key role in getting the Senate to set aside funds for kids a couple of weeks ago. But Senate leaders then took those funds back out of the budget bill. When Senator Specter and Senator Rick Santorum vote on the massive tax cut package next week, we hope they'll both insist that Congress set aside money for programs proven to help kids get the right start so they become good neighbors instead of criminals," Newman said.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and the Child Welfare League called on Congress to:
  • Boost funds for child abuse prevention, Head Start, quality child care, and after-school programs so that all children and families in need ultimately will be served.

  • Make the Children's Tax Credit fully refundable so that the help it provides to middle-class and wealthy families will also go to the families of 440,000 children in Pennsylvania who would otherwise get no help from the credit because they earn too little to qualify.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Pennsylvania is a nonpartisan group of 50 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, and victims of violence, and is the state affiliate of the 1000-member national organization of law enforcement leaders and victims of violence. The Child Welfare League of America, established in 1920, is the nation's oldest and largest membership-based child welfare organization. Its more than 1,150 public and private nonprofit agencies assist over three million abused and neglected children, youth, and their families each year with a wide range of services.

Commenting on the poll, Newman said: "The proof is in: We'll win the fight against crime when we're as ready to guarantee a kid a place in a Head Start, child care or after-school program as we are to guarantee a criminal a place in a jail cell."

Newman cited a 22-year study of the High/Scope Perry Preschool in Michigan. The study showed that at-risk children randomly left out of the program when they were three and four years old were five times more likely to be chronic lawbreakers at age 27 than those who had been enrolled in the preschool. Another study showed that high school boys randomly assigned to a quality after-school program in four cities had one-sixth as many arrests during the high school years as those left out of the program.

Despite the proven effectiveness of these programs, federal and state governments are falling far short of the level of investment needed to protect public safety. In Pennsylvania, Head Start serves only about half of the eligible children living in poverty and tuition assistance for child care is available to only one of seven eligible children. Meanwhile, the cost of child care for two children at a private facility in Pennsylvania costs more than $14,000 a year, far more than the annual salary of a parent earning the minimum wage.

In addition to urging federal policymakers to invest in programs for kids, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids has called on Pennsylvania's governor and legislature to invest in preschool education for the first time by providing $25 million in the budget now under consideration.

Newman said that investments in school readiness, child care and after-school programs had been endorsed by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. He cited a national poll that showed nine out of ten police chiefs believe investing in quality child care and after-school programs would "greatly reduce crime."

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