Tag Archives: Poverty

Preaching it

13 Jun

A while back, I had the privilege of hearing Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speak. At one point during her talk, she recalled her starting salary just out of law school — $17,000.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (Photo credit: Wikipedia.)

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (Photo credit: Wikipedia.)

She said, “That was more than my mother ever made.”

It seemed like a lot of money, she said. Then: “To some people, seventeen thousand dollars still IS a lot of money.”

It was a powerful moment. One of the nine most powerful judges in the world was acknowledging that poor people exist in the United States today — and that she actually understood what poverty could mean.

I thought of that today when I saw this video clip of State Senator Vincent Hughes’ recent speech in the state legislature on funding for education and healthcare.

Senator Vincent Hughes headshot

Pennsylvania Senator Vincent Hughes

Watch his passionate, informed speech now. Or take a look at the (long) excerpt below.

We have a solution in front of us that would help about a half a million people in Pennsylvania.

People who are working every day.  Many of them working two, three, and sometimes four jobs on a daily basis. They’re trying to make ends meet.

They’re not making a lot of money. They have drive, they have perseverance, they have faith — they have to have faith, because if they didn’t have faith, my best guess is they would not be able to make it through. They really wouldn’t.

They work every day. They’re cleaning bodies — of the infirm, the elderly, those who are sick, those who are disabled. They’re helping folks get to their job.

They’re providing security for us. Which is even more important on a daily basis as the level of violence seems to rise….

They work in our neighborhoods, they work in our communities. They do the work that just about all of us would not know how to do if we were asked to do it ourselves.

But all of us depend on these individuals. They work in this building. They service this building. They work every day. They’re real people with real lives.

The thing that they’re missing — because they’ve got everything else, they’ve got the drive, they’ve got the determination, they show up early. Very early.

They work the late shift, the overnight shift. They work the early shift. They take the early bus. Some of you may understand what that means. They put it in.

The thing that they’re missing, the thing that’s absent in their lives…is health insurance. The ability to go to a doctor and to get a problem taken care of.

Healthcare! We all know about it. Every one of us in this building — or at least those of us who sit in these grand chairs in this chamber, the 49, the 50 senators, the 203 House members, the folks in this administration, we. all. have. health insurance. We understand the value of that!

There are folks who I know who have a problem — but they’ve got insurance. That’s the first question. They’re taken care of.

But these individuals — there’s over a million of them in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They don’t have health insurance. But they work every day. They have a window of opportunity of a solution to their problem.

It’s right in front of us. It’s been provided to us. Plus the money to pay for it!

Four billion dollars a year, coming to Pennsylvania to provide health insurance to provide health insurance for about five hundred thousand working people in Pennsylvania.

And by the way, most of these working individuals are women. They’re heading families. They’re working every day. And they just need a little bit of help.

And the program is right there. It’s right within our grasp to take. It’s right there!

Three independent studies have said, “It is OK to do, Pennsylvania.” Over half the states in the nation have said, We’re going to take this program, we’re going to put it in place in our state, we’re going to make it work for our citizens.

And quite frankly it doesn’t just help those who don’t have insurance, it helps everyone, including those of us who have insurance, because it has the opportunity to lower our own personal rates, because everyone else is covered.

Right there in front of us. It’s like this glass of water. You’re thirsty — it’s right there in front of us.

It’s paid for. The water’s in the glass. The glass is sitting right there. It’s right there in front of us, but someone is pulling it away from us, not allowing us to have it.

The health insurance is there. The coverage is in place. Help is available for those who need the insurance.

But we keep getting stall tactics, day in and day out, from the front office, about why this cannot be done.

We got some smart people in Pennsylvania. Smart enough to know that if 25 other states could do it, surely we could do the same thing.

What do parents want?

15 Apr

Daycare photo #1

Seeing this sign in North Philadelphia reminded me that poor parents want the same thing as richer parents: To know that their children are safe while they are away from them.

After all, isn’t this web cam more or less the same thing as a nanny cam? The difference in this case is that the employees know that the parents may be watching.

Daycare photo #2Of course, monitoring is a fairly crude way to try to ensure high-quality care (and potentially prone to backfiring). The more sophisticated ways tend to require investments of time, money, professional development, and so on.

Which brings me to an interesting development on the horizon. The World Class Greater Philadelphia initiative recently announced a major new effort in Philadelphia to develop an assessment of kindergarten readiness. The effort is funded via a $200,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to the United Way.

From the announcement (emphasis is mine):

[H]igh-quality preschool education is the exception, not the rule, in Greater Philadelphia. In a region with 250,000 children under five, only 11 percent of registered childcare providers earned a Keystone STARS 3 or 4 rating [in Pennsylvania’s voluntary child-care rating system], generally considered to be the standard of “high quality.”

[…] Getting standardized kindergarten readiness assessments in place could have a particularly strong impact in the low-income communities where quality preschool education is needed most, empowering parents to “vote with their feet” and demand high-quality early learning options.

My bias is that poor families don’t really need help demanding high-quality early learning options. They already want them. Rather, they may need help discerning which of the options open to them is the best.*

But that’s a quibble. All in all, I was glad to hear about the RWJ grant and hope that the project comes to fruition as anticipated.

*Of course, it would also be nice if the childcare subsidies that poor families are eligible for were better tied to quality of care. But that’s a topic for another post.