All blogs filed under Children
On Monday I was honored to announce a new partnership to connect kids and teens to health insurance coverage in Philadelphia. Joining me at the event, which was held before an auditorium full of students and faculty from Furness High School, were U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Congressman Chaka Fattah (PA-02), Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunnery from the School District of Philadelphia and Sarah Martinez-Helfman, Executive Director of the Eagles Youth Partnership, and Furness Principal Timothy McKenna.
Health is fundamental to a child’s ability to succeed inside and outside the classroom, yet eight million children in the United States are uninsured – 222,000 of whom live in Pennsylvania. More than half these children could be helped by available public health insurance programs – if their parents signed them up. Up to five million children, and 129,000 of the children in Pennsylvania, are eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but are not enrolled. While the percentage of eligible children enrolled in public health programs in Pennsylvania is higher than the national average, more must be done to ensure every eligible child is enrolled.
Secretary Sebelius has issued a challenge to the Nation called “Connecting Kids to Coverage,” which asks groups to commit to taking on new efforts to enroll children and teenagers in health insurance programs. I was proud to announce at the event yesterday that Philadelphia is the first school district in the Nation, and the Eagles are the first professional sports team, to “step up” to Secretary Sebelius’s Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge. The school district and the Eagles Youth Partnership are partnering with Public Citizens for Children and Youth, a group with a longstanding commitment and experience in enrolling children and youth in Philadelphia in health insurance.
These Philadelphia-based organizations have demonstrated great leadership on behalf of children, and I would like to echo the Secretary’s Challenge to all of Pennsylvania: I ask that more community organizations and entities across Pennsylvania “step up!” and accept Secretary Sebelius’s challenge so that we can be sure every child and teen in the state has the coverage he or she needs to succeed in school, athletics and beyond.
On Friday, I travelled to Pottstown to meet with local parents and community and business leaders to talk about the Pottstown Early Action for Kindergarten Readiness (PEAK) initiative. PEAK is a unique public-private partnership that members of the community launched in 2006 to ensure that every child enters kindergarten ready to learn. Roberto J. Rodriguez, Special Assistant to President Obama for Education, joined me for the visit.
The passion expressed by everyone involved was striking. By drawing upon all members of the community – public and private sector-alike – to enhance early learning opportunities, PEAK is really making a difference for Pottstown’s youngest citizens.
One of the most striking moments of the discussion was when PEAK parent, Christine Russell, talked about the difference the program has made in her son’s life. Christine was alerted that her son had a developmental disability long before most children are diagnosed with this particular condition because of the keen perception and intervention of her son’s teachers. Because of this, she was able to get her son the help he needed while he was still very young, which has allowed him to stay enrolled in the mainstream curriculum.
Early learning must be a priority not just in states but in Washington. I believe that we can’t be the nation we want to be without ensuring every child in this country gets a good start in life. That is why I have introduced legislation to increase access to high-quality pre-k education and increase the availability of high-quality and affordable child care, including:
These types of investments in early learning opportunities would not only help children, they would also improve our economy by strengthening our workforce, our productivity and our competitiveness.
I look forward to working with Roberto and others from the Administration as well as my Congressional colleagues, to ensure that early learning opportunities are expanded and strengthened – so that we can grow upon the good work being done in communities like Pottstown.
Earlier this week, I spent some time in Lawrence County. On Monday evening I wrapped up my day by joining local farmers and constituents at the Lawrence County Fair. As I walked through the fair, I was able to meet many of the dedicated farmers and youth involved in this annual summer tradition. I saw firsthand the variety of exhibits that showcase the ingenuity and ongoing growth of the agriculture industry in Pennsylvania. I was particularly impressed with the Mobile Ag Education Science Lab. This lab travels to schools across the state, educating students on the agriculture industry. By providing a hands on experience, children are making the important connection between agriculture and the food on their table.
On Tuesday, I visited Ellwood City to see the work they are doing with Appalachian Lighting Systems Inc. Appalachian Lighting is a local manufacturer of high-efficiency LED fixtures. Through the use of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Ellwood City was able to increase their orders through Appalachian Lighting resulting in significant energy efficiency improvements for the Borough. This partnership is an impressive example of how these funds can be utilized to stimulate business, encourage cost saving improvements, and foster economic growth. My father visited Ellwood City often, and I know he too would be proud of Ellwood City and the great work they are doing.
I'd like to commend and congratulate Crayola on the opening of a brand-new 15 acre solar farm at their world headquarters. Joining with two other Pennsylvania companies, UGI Energy Services Inc. of Reading and PPL Corporation of Allentown, Crayola is helping Pennsylvania manufacturing go green with the help of money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The 1.9-megawatt solar farm will generate enough power to make over 1 billion crayons per year! Now Crayola can proudly boast that their crayons are "made with sunshine."
Children came from across the country to help plug the solar farm into the Crayola factory. These children won a nationwide contest to envision a greener world. I am glad to know that Crayola crayons, markers, and colored pencils, helped these children harness their own creative talents.
This project is an example of the change we can make when we all work together. The Recovery Act provided a $1.5 million grant to fund a large portion of the solar project, and the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit, which I voted for, provided tax credits for 30% of the capital investment. Because of these incentives, Crayola plans to expand the solar farm over the next few years and create many more jobs in Pennsylvania.
Child abuse is an unspeakable tragedy whenever it occurs. I recently wrote an op-ed in the York Daily Record, in response to an editorial about the need for additional work to prevent child abuse and improve the lives of children in Pennsylvania.
Every community struggles with the scourge of child abuse, and in my op-ed I discussed several different angles from which we can tackle this problem, from actions I believe the Congress must take to programs in local communities across Pennsylvania that are actively working to prevent child abuse.
The editorial from the York Daily Record is available here and my op-ed in reply is available here.
There are many organizations working to prevent child abuse and protect our children. One example in Pennsylvania is the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and their HERO Project – an innovative educational and motivational campaign featuring radio and television ads that ask adults to step up and be a "hero" for a child whom they suspect may be a victim of sexual abuse by calling a 24-hour hotline.
I encourage you to learn more about organizations like PCAR and what you can do in your community to prevent child abuse.