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Posts Tagged ‘Children’s services benefits’

The following is a letter I sent to each county commissioner.

To Our Leon County Commissioners:

I am writing to express my disappointment (well actually my anger) at the increased hesitation over proceeding to establish a Leon County Children’s Services Council.  The only concern I truly understand is over making sure it passes, so as NOT to deprive the underserved children of Leon County of the support they need.  In reality it is not only the children who need the services the CSC would provide. Our community at large will reap huge benefits when these children become adults.

One of the objections I am hearing, from numerous parties who oppose the CSC (in particular the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce) is we do not know the necessary details.  I am curious as to what details are missing. In fact, much research has been conducted and the proof has been long established about the needs to improve early childhood learning, literacy, as well as mental and physical health of young children.  Let’s look at just one example – reduction of crime

Multiple studies indicate that improving literacy will reduce the percentage of people arrested for a wide range of crime.  Here is one link to research:  https://literacymidsouth.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/incarceration-and-low-literacy/

The state of Florida uses 3rdgrade literacy rates to predict the number of prison cells that will be needed in the future.  Texas uses 4thgrade literacy rates.  A CSC that invests in a combination of early childhood education, literacy programs and mental health will impact the crime rate in Leon County. Further, the benefits will go far beyond reducing crime.  Businesses will benefit from an increased population that can provide workers and customers.  Our economic system will both save money (less folks put in prison) as well as be more productive.

There is a slew of evidence/research that covers many aspects of the benefits of the CSC. Perhaps most significant is the need to increase the self confidence and vocabulary levels of children by the time they are 3 years old.  Brains are about 90% developed by the time a child is 3 years old.  While development continues through adolescence, indeed until about 25 years old, the need to have positive programs for children 0 to 5 is obvious and will have the greatest impact on improving the adult population of the next generation.  A University of Chicago research program from 2016 gives the details on many of the benefits from improved early childhood learning programs.

Enough about details.  There are professionals in our community who are better able than me to inform you on the research done that addressing both needs and programmatic solutions.  In truth, the opposition mostly has nothing to do with either details or concern it will not pass.  Rather, the opposition to the CSC is fearful it WILL pass.

Why?

Well, because this opposition is led by folks who either:

  • Are very shortsighted in their assessment of what will truly benefit the community in the long run verses the short run.
  • Are mostly concerned about giving up some money in increased taxes.
  • Are opposed to any government program that is perceived as adding to “big government.”Some prefer to have it as part of the commission’s budget/agenda.
  • A combination of all of the above.

Allow me to address each of these “concerns.”

  • As stated above, the research on the long term benefits is clear. Providing necessary services especially to children 0 to 5 will bring the benefits to our community as stated above.
  • The half mil increase translates to just an increase of $50 of tax per every $100 thousand of property ownership. A person with a half million dollar house will pay $250.  This is affordable at every level especially when considering the long term improvements to the general community.  In addition, we have just received a tax decrease on the federal government level, and if we are honest, we must admit Florida is one of the lowest taxing states in the country.  Property owners can afford this with no problem.
  • This is not creating big government. This is a local decision that has to be renewed by voters.  Further, having children’s services be part of the commission’s budget and decision making every year, puts them at the mercy of political lobbying as opposed to assessment by professionals who know how to address the needs and have a built in cash flow to do so.  While I do not oppose programs for elderly or veterans, children’s needs are the only ones that truly affect the future of the community. They should NOT be at the yearly disposal of a group of county politicians.  The result might be the ending of programs that need a number of years to change the path of children, due to the pressure of folks lobbying for other needs or a budget difficulty.  All of this is why the independence of a CSC is actually critical.

You will hear from all those who are opposing the CSC that they care about children.  Here is the reality.  If you truly care about children, your focus should be on how to best get this done, not to find excuses to not pursue a CSC.  If you are concerned about the complexity of this fall’s ballot, put it on the primary ballot or declare a path to have it voted on for sure ASAP after this fall’s election.

I will be very blunt. If you do not find a way to create an independent council that provides needs for underserved children; which will in turn create numerous long term benefits for our community, then do NOT say you care about children.  Your words will be as meaningless as people who offer “prayers and thoughts” as their only response to school shootings.

Rabbi Jack Romberg

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