by Elizabeth Gibbons
- Over the past two weeks, teachers across the country have been walking out, striking, and demanding livable wages, better resources, and increased public school funding. The most publicized stories have come from West Virginia and Oklahoma, where protests and mass school closures have yielded positive results: a 5% pay increase in West Virginia and a teacher-supported bill passed in Oklahoma. Kentucky and Arizona teachers are also calling for increased school funding and pay raises, and are protesting cuts to their pension plans. Grassroots groups, teachers unions, and the students themselves support this movement, and social media has played a major role in mobilizing and informing the public.
- In further public school news, the New York state legislature passed a new law requiring all public schools to provide free menstrual products in girls’ restrooms, with Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeting that menstrual products are as necessary as toilet paper but are expensive for families who are struggling financially.
- The Government Accountability Office released a report detailing in-school disciplinary action across the country, stating that students who are African American—especially boys—and those with disabilities are punished more severely than any other student group, even across poverty lines. This report coincides with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s meeting to debate rescinding Obama-era guidelines stipulating that districts should be held accountable under federal civil rights laws. The results of this study on federal and state policy are yet to be seen, but DeVos’s track record and general disregard for public schools does not bode well.
On April 2, the Kentucky State Senate proposed a new budget that would greatly affect social services and child welfare workers. The new budget includes $22.2 million over the next two years, a dramatic increase for often overlooked social services. It includes a pay raise for Cabinet for Health and Family Services social workers, increased funding for hiring more workers and upgrading technology, and millions of dollars earmarked for foster care and state care for children removed from their homes.
The annual Kids Count Data Book, released in 2017, ranked New Mexico as number 49 in the nation on child well-being—making it second to last behind Mississippi. An advocacy group, New Mexico Voices for Children, has released a policy agenda with the hopes of guiding progressive policy to increase child welfare and provide better service to the state’s children and families. This agenda is split into three categories: economic well-being, education, and health. Among the economic well-being recommendations are increasing tax credits for families, increasing minimum wage, and simplifying the benefits enrollment process. The education reforms include increased funding for early learning programs, better compensation for teachers, and greater access to adult education programs. The health recommendations include reopening and expanding school-based health centers, a rebuilding of behavioral health systems with an emphasis on substance abuse treatment, and increased funding for teenage specific health programs, including pregnancy prevention and suicide prevention.
It should be noted that none of this is actual policy; these are recommendations for candidates to include in their platforms and for current members of New Mexico State Senate and House to consider. New Mexico’s dismal child welfare ranking is indicative of larger problems, and policy changes should be all-inclusive.
Elizabeth Gibbons is CWLA’s editorial intern. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.