Improving the odds for America’s children

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(NNPA)—“…We see repeated efforts in Congress in recent years to take resources away from poor and middle-class children and families, like food stamps and tax credits and education funding and access to affordable health care, and give even more to the wealthy and powerful. Bipartisanship has taken a severe beating in recent years, as has the willingness of Congress to enact or support policies driven by evidence-based research that help children and families and our country as a whole.”—Congressman George Miller, Foreword, Improving the Odds for America’s Children

More than 40 years ago, the earliest planning for what would become the Children’s Defense Fund took place at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. CDF began in 1973 in a Harvard University-owned clapboard house. Our beginning was bolstered by a two-volume publication of the Harvard Educational Review in 1973 and 1974 among whose top editors were CDF staff, many of them graduates of or students at Harvard’s education and law schools. Another young staff attorney, Hillary Rodham, in her first job after law school, contributed an article on the “Rights of Children.”

At the same time, CDF staff knocked on doors to look for children out of school in Massachusetts and all across America. A local group, Massachusetts Advocacy, had issued a report on Children Out of School in Boston and we wondered whether this was a statewide or national problem. After knocking on many thousands of doors in census tracts across our country, CDF documented it was a national problem with at least 2 million children out of school, including 750,000 the census said were between 7-13 years old but did not tell us who they were. We found many were children with disabilities. Other children were pushed out by discipline policies, language, and the inability to afford school fees.

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