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Vote for Kids in 2018 Election

People vote in voting boothBy Andrew Cutting, Program Fellow at Alaska Children’s Trust

Children are an essential part of all of our lives and our communities. They are our future. And in four months, Alaskans will be asked to make one of the most important decisions that will have the greatest impact on our children and families.

On November 6, the election polls will open and we will decide who will represent us as governor, and in the Alaska State Legislature and the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. The individuals elected into office will have the opportunity to make and influence decisions that will determine if our children and families prosper or fail.

Today, Alaska families from Ketchikan to Hooper Bay, Unalaska to Valdez, Gambell to Fort Yukon and everywhere in between are struggling. They are struggling to ensure the next meal is on the table, tanks are filled with heating fuel, next month’s rent is paid, or ensuring their children are safe as they work multiple jobs. The most recent National Kids Count Data Book by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows Alaska ranks 46 out of 50 for child well-being. Last year we ranked 38th and 27th four years ago.

Alaskans stand together – we all strive to ensure children and families don’t struggle. Children are our most valuable resource. The more our families struggle, the greater the cost to our state. As we move into the 2018 campaign season you will hear lots of candidates, some old and familiar, some new and unfamiliar, share their vision and plans for our state. We will have the opportunity and responsibility to confirm that the candidates’ primary focus is to ensure children and families prosper, no matter who the candidate is, which party they identify with, no matter their gender, age or where they live.

Voices for Alaska’s Children, a program of Alaska Children’s Trust, is launching a statewide campaign to amplify the voice of children and families – Vote for Kids. Vote for Kids is a statewide campaign that looks to elevate child and family issues to the forefront of the political conversation and encourage people to actively engage candidates to explore how they will ensure Alaska children and families thrive.

While an improved national economy has resulted in more positive trends in other parts of the country, that’s not yet true in Alaska. The lived experiences of children and families in our state are not improving and the statistics bear this truth out in detail. Fourteen percent of Alaska’s children live below the poverty line and 28 percent live in homes with a high housing cost burden. Test scores showed only 28 percent of fourth-graders are proficient readers and 29 percent of eighth-graders are completing math proficiently. According to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, only 30 percent of kindergarteners were ready to start school when they arrived.

These grim numbers point us toward action. The 2018 elections present a critical opportunity to engage and educate candidates on issues that affect children across Alaska. But children can’t vote, they don’t have unions, they don’t have lobbyists, and they don’t buy advertising on their interests and priorities. However, they do have YOU.

We simply cannot keep going down the same path. As we look to our future, we know that we want the best for children. We know that families are what makes Alaska a wonderful place to live. Now is the time to pull together as neighbors and as communities and have meaningful conversation about our future to ensure every child has the chance to succeed.

The successful candidates in the upcoming elections will be in a unique position to make public policies that impact the future well-being and success of Alaska’s children and families. As advocates for children, we must make sure their voices are heard. It is up to us to make sure candidates are informed on the issues that impact the well-being of children and our future, and that our friends and families are informed too.

As candidates talk about what they see for our future, it’s helpful to direct the conversation to issues related to children and families. Attend local candidate forums and ask questions related to key issues causing children and families to struggle. Directly reach out to candidates and ask them for their perspective on the key issues children and families face each day. Together, we can ensure the 2018 election is focused on developing and investing in the future of our state – our children.

We challenge you to engage with Vote for Kids! Sign up for more information and be the voice for children and families.

Andrew_headshot

Andrew Cutting is a program fellow at Alaska Children’s Trust.

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