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As policymakers return to Salem for the 2018 Legislative Session, a coalition of over 100 leading advocacy organizations has released a policy agenda geared toward leveling the playing field for children in Oregon. Released by United for Kids, a program of Children First for Oregon, the 2018 Children’s Agenda offers the policy solutions needed to address persistent disparities faced by children in the state and forge a pathway toward equity. 

Policies in the Children’s Agenda were proposed for their benefits to the health, safety, education and economic security of children throughout the state. “Children’s needs span across multiple policy areas,” explained Children First for Oregon’s executive director Tonia Hunt. “The Children’s Agenda is the one place where legislators and the public can see a set of solutions proposed by child and family well-being experts across our state.”

Two of the 17 concepts included in the Children’s Agenda have been prioritized due to their targeted impact on children from disparately affected populations: Culturally Specific Early Learning and Employer-Related Day Care. Both policies would boost participation in critical programs, improve the quality of early childhood educational experiences, increase school readiness, benefit graduation rates and help families find dependable, quality care so parents can work.

Data released by Children First for Oregon show that less than half of Oregon’s 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled in preschool in 2015. Due to cultural and language barriers, many children of color are less likely than their white counterparts to have access to high-quality early learning experiences. “Services developed and delivered by the same communities as those being served are not only important, they’re effective,” explained Amanda Manjarrez, Director of Advocacy at Latino Network. “Culturally specific early learning programs are already showing positive results for kids of color. Now legislators have the opportunity to build on this success.”

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, racial and geographical disparities limit opportunities and outcomes for children in Oregon. Data released in the 2017 Race for Results report show that children of color and kids in rural communities are more likely to live in poverty and less likely to graduate high school. “We have a shared responsibility to ensure that all children can build a bright future for themselves,” said Hunt. “Now it’s up to policymakers to act on the solutions needed to close the gaps.”

In the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Legislative Sessions, the majority of policy items in the Children’s Agenda were successful. To download the 2018 Children’s Agenda, visit http://bit.ly/2nfOdzo.