Something Called Help

Washington, D.C. Free morning lunch in the kindergarten of a Negro school

Photo: “Washington, D.C. Free morning lunch in the kindergarten of a Negro school” (Marjory Collins, 1942)

Please read this heartbreaking Judith Warner post about what we are doing for kids in crisis compared to what was done for them during the Great Depression:

The youth crisis of the 1930s terrified observers and led to a profound shift in American politics. “The Depression toppled the notion that children’s welfare could be left to individual families, private charities, and local and state governments,” Mintz writes. “It created a consensus that the federal government had a responsibility to promote children’s well-being.” Anxious about the emergence of a “lost generation” that could fall into the grip of fascism, the Roosevelt administration started the country’s first free-lunch programs, opened hundreds of free nursery schools, created the first federally-financed work-study programs for teenagers, funneled money to poor states to maintain teachers’ salaries, and created jobs for teenagers. Schools were built. Aid to Dependent Children came into being

What a difference an administration makes:

But if needy children were iconic — and change-inspiring — back then, they now appear to be all but forgotten.

The stimulus package of last spring contained a good deal of additional federal financing for child-care and Head Start programs. But that assistance was a one-shot deal. Ten states have cut back on their financing for pre-kindergarten education; at least nine have growing wait lists for child-care subsidies. Ohio and California have eliminated certain preschool programs altogether; other states are making it harder for families to qualify for state assistance.

Candidate Obama promised to double federal money for afterschool programs — instead that funding has remained flat, even as need has increased. According to a recent national survey carried out by the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group, 26 percent of school-age children are left alone after school each day — an increase of 800,000 kids since 2004. And as many as 100,000 teachers have been laid off this year.

In Obama, children got a symbol of hope.  In FDR, something called help.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply