The Roadmap to End Childhood Hunger in America
A year ago, President Obama set the goal to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. Last week the National Anti-Hunger Organizations (NAHO), a coalition of sixteen of the leading secular and faith-based organizations working to end hunger in the United States, released a report titled "The Roadmap to End Childhood Hunger by 2015," offering a blueprint on how to achieve this ambitious goal. Today, 16.7 million children in America live in households that do not have access to enough nutritious, healthy foods. NAHO believes "With an investment of leadership and resources, we can lift all of America's children into food security and eliminate child hunger in the United States once and for all."
Confronting Climate Change Here and Abroad
For the past week and a half, leaders from all over the world have gathered in Copenhagen to try to reach agreement on a deal that would move countries away from the use of fossil fuels and other damaging pollutants and increase the use of greener forms of energy. Conveners of the United Nations Climate Change Conference also have the difficult job of figuring out how to properly funnel billions of dollars from richer countries to poorer nations, the likely populations to be hardest hit by the effects of climate change. One thing is certain: something must be done to turn back the devastating effects of global climate change and save our environment and economy from further wreckage.
World leaders have agreed that they need to control greenhouse gas emissions and have set a one year deadline for a treaty. But a number of important issues are still up for debate, including long-term financing, the exact mechanisms that should be used to reduce emissions, and how compliance should be monitored. President Obama will join more than 110 leaders in Copenhagen at the end of the week for the final negotiations.
How to Fix the Economy? Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!
On December 3rd, President Obama invited a group of economists, labor union presidents, and small business owners to meet at the White House and discuss the economic crisis and the mounting number of unemployed Americans. President Obama convened the jobs summit in light of the country's growing jobless rate. In November the jobless rate reached 10.2%, the highest rate of unemployment since 1983. There is little indication that this number will rapidly decrease in the near future and many are looking to Congress and the President to take action to improve the national employment situation.
After a series of summit breakout sessions and speeches, President Obama signaled his approval of programs that would help create job growth such as weatherization, small-business incentives, and tax credits for employers who hire new workers. Despite pressure from a number of advocates, the President did not make a commitment to direct federal investment in job creation, mostly due to the high cost of such a program. The President took his plans one step further this past Tuesday when he gave a major economic speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. President Obama indicated three key areas where he would like to concentrate job growth efforts:
What Do Gingrich, Sharpton and Duncan Have in Common?
Over the past year much of the country, including the national media and our politicians, has been primarily focused on the economic crisis. But a crisis of a different kind is taking place in America's schools. Students are dropping out at record rates, untrained teachers are placed in failing schools, parents are absent from parent-teacher meetings, and America's youth is falling farther and farther behind their contemporaries in other countries. A low-quality education is a frequent predictor that an individual will live in poverty, go through periods of unemployment, or enter the criminal justice system. Improving our public education system is essential to alleviating poverty in the United States.
Recent studies indicate that six out of ten public school 4th graders cannot do math at grade level. About two-thirds of 4th graders cannot read at grade level. However these statistics don't reflect the disproportionate impact for minority communities. More than 80% of black and Hispanic 4th graders cannot read at grade level compared to 58% of their white peers. According to the Children's Defense Fund, policies focused singularly on "zero tolerance" often have the effect of encouraging suspensions and ultimately drop-outs. Again, these policies have a disproportionate impact on minority communities, particularly black, Hispanic, and American Indian students. Out of America's 26,000 high schools, roughly 2,000 of them produce the majority of our nation's drop-outs. And while the drop-out rate has decreased over the years, its high level still poses a cause for concern. The U.S. Department of Education found that nearly 6.2 million students in the U.S. between the ages of 16-24 in 2007 dropped out of high school. Three in ten (27.5%) Latinos are drop-outs and one in five (21%) black students never finish high school. The achievement gap becomes apparent when you consider that in 2007 the drop-out rate for whites was 12.2%.
Explaining the Health Insurance Exchange
Amidst the recent national discussion about health care reform, a number of different proposals have been advanced, each of which includes very specific components and guidelines. It is quite easy to get lost in the minutia of the legislation and debates and lose sight of what changes would occur upon passage of a bill. This edition of Confronting Poverty offers an explanation of one of the key components of all the plans currently being considered in Congress− the health insurance exchange. The exchange creates a newly organized and competitive health insurance market place where individuals can shop for insurance. It establishes common rules regarding the offering and pricing of insurance and presents information on plans in a consumer-friendly manner (usually an easy-to-guide website, where consumers can straightforwardly compare various offerings and enroll). Massachusetts has a working example of a health insurance exchange called The Massachusetts Connector. Their website offers an example of what the exchange looks like from a consumer perspective.
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