Hear the Orange County Florida League of Women Voter’s May 5, 2010 Hot Topics’ Luncheon program featuring the remarks of Lawton “Bud” Chiles, president of the Lawton Chiles Foundation on the subject of “Are We Failing Our Children?” and their campaign known as Worst to First, an initiative to raise Florida’s ranking in the state’s investment in children’s education, health, and social well being, compared to the investments of other states. Also, Deirdre Macnab, league member and president of the Florida League of Women Voter’s provides a status report regarding the Fair Districts Florida state constitutional amendment on the ballot for voter consideration in November. And league member, Marc Lovett, co-chair of its Social Policy Committee provides a report regarding the activities of the committee. Feature Length — 55:17
The late Florida Governor Lawton Chiles was a fierce advocate for children’s rights and during his years in the Governor’s Mansion many child advocacy programs, including Healthy Start, were approved. But today, while statewide statistics related to the wellbeing of children are dismal, programs to help them are under attack. Enter Lawton “Bud” Chiles: Chiles has taken a page out of his father’s campaign book and is walking the state, spreading the message about the importance of investing in children. Hear the story of his “Worst to First” initiative, a statewide advocacy campaign to make children’s issues the top priority for Florida’s leaders.
Relevant External Links on Issues Addressed by Panel Speaker (in approximate order of reference)…
- Orlando Sentinel/Scott Maxwell “Your quick guide to Legislature’s highs and lows.”
- Hope World Wide
- Lawton Chiles Foundation
Lawton “Bud” Chiles
- The Florida Constitution
- Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT)
- Children’s Week Community Innovation Awards Luncheon
- Florida Children’s Service Council
- Fair Districts Florida
- Federal Voting Rights Laws
- Florida League of Cities
- Florida Association of Counties
- Florida League of Women Voters
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Is Florida the worst? Yes, in nearly every measure of how our state pays for and provides care to vulnerable children, our state is at or near the bottom of the national rankings.
As the 4th largest state in the country, and one of the most prosperous, Florida should be a leader in the health, education, and investment we make in our children’s future.
And we once were: Florida led the country with innovative programs to make sure every child entered kindergarten ready to learn. We developed cutting-edge anti-smoking programs that cut the rates of teen smoking dramatically, using the money we obtained from suing the big tobacco companies to do it.
But now, instead of being first—or even among the upper half of states on indicators of the child well-being, we are in the bottom 10 to 15, competing for 50th with Mississippi and Texas in the percent of working parents who go to sleep at night worrying that if their kids get sick, they won’t be able to afford to take them to the doctor.
Those aren’t Florida values. We should be leading the nation in the quality of our schools and the health of our kids, not in teen pregnancy and juvenile incarceration. Middle class parents should be able to send their kids to public schools that will prepare them to compete in the 21st century global economy, and people who work hard but are still struggling to make ends meet, or are losing their jobs in these tough economic times, should know that their kids will have the ability to see a doctor and get the kind of education that will help them fulfill their God-given potential.
We should be investing in success—healthy, well-educated children—not paying for failure. We shouldn’t be spending our tax dollars on remedial education for kids when we could have spent a fraction of those dollars preventing the problems in the first place by making sure all of our children have a running start by the time they reach kindergarten. We shouldn’t be spending our tax dollars building new detention centers and prison cells for teenagers when, if we had intervened early, could have spent a fraction of those dollars building new college classrooms. And we shouldn’t be spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on costly procedures to try to save sick infants when we could have prevented them from being born early and ill had we invested a fraction of that money in preventive care for unborn children. Investing in our children is not just the right thing to do. It’s also the fiscally responsible thing to do.