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Actions louder than words on poverty

  • Published Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, at 6:57 a.m.

Gov. Sam Brownback is hosting town-hall meetings on childhood poverty this week, including one Wednesday in Wichita. These town halls require advanced registration, occur during the workday and last three hours. The format is sure to deter attendance by those living in poverty.

This should be expected. Though our governor has made many statements about his desire to lower the rates of Kansas children living in poverty, his actions speak far louder than his words. His policies will succeed at driving the children of Kansas deeper into the depths of hardship that they should not know.

His public statements and gestures are more than just shallow; they smack of blatant hypocrisy.

Kansas children living in poverty need public education. They rely upon this education to elevate them out of their current standard of living. Brownback’s latest cut of $232 per pupil made a bad situation worse for these kids. We now have fewer teachers and more crowded classrooms.

Kansas children living in poverty need mental health treatment. Brownback has cut funding for residential mental health treatment programs for adolescents. According to the president of Prairie View in Newton, her agency has seen this funding cut in half.

Kansas children living in poverty need Children’s Initiative Fund programs. Brownback has given agencies a directive to reduce CIF expenditures in their proposed budget submissions. The SIDS Network of Kansas may see all of its state funding eliminated – 30 percent of its total budget.

Kansas children living in poverty include the children of undocumented immigrants. Brownback’s friend in the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, Robert Siedlecki, sent a memo stating that benefits to undocumented applicants will be reduced or eliminated entirely.

Kansas children living in poverty include those who are uninsured and underinsured. Brownback opposes the Affordable Care Act. He sent back federal grant money intended for implementation within Kansas. There are 347,400 uninsured Kansans, and nearly 75,000 of them are children.

Kansas children living in poverty are often the result of unintended pregnancies. Brownback is the leader in trying to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding. Kansas moms need affordable access to birth control.

Kansas children living in poverty need their moms to have access to early prenatal care. Kansas has the worst African-American infant-mortality rate in the nation and ranks 40th overall. Unlike other states, Kansas does not offer presumptive Medicaid eligibility to pregnant women living in poverty. They must wait for approval, which can take months. Early prenatal care increases a wanted pregnancy’s chance of a healthy outcome.

Kansas children living in poverty need funding. The money is there, but Brownback refuses to spend it. Budget forecasters recently stated that the state is expected to collect 6.2 percent more than it did in the past fiscal year. The 2012 budget left a surplus of $50 million.

Kansas children living in poverty need the adult who is in charge at the Capitol to allow honest and open discourse about the issue of childhood poverty. Instead, they will be used as political pawns in a meaningless gesture of a town-hall

event.

Kari Ann Rinker of Wichita is state coordinator of the National Organization for Women.

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