Social Justice Blog

<< return to main

2015 Capitol Update

Posted: March 23, 2015

Last week I was at the Capitol on Tuesday with the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC). There were representatives from all faith traditions including Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and many other Christian Denominations. We gathered to hear a speech from the Vice President of Catholic Relief Services (Operation Rice Bowl); she discussed our shared values in working to eliminate poverty and to improve opportunities for all people. Afterwards we reviewed our anti-poverty agenda by district. There were almost 900 people of faith gathered for the event at the St. Paul River Center. Afterwards we took buses to the Capitol and met with our legislators. We are fortunate that Representative Erhardt and Senator Franzen were able to meet with us to discuss Affordable Child Care, Public Transporta-tion and some of the Justice Issues at the legislature this session.

On Thursday I was back at the Capitol for Homeless Day on the Hill. There were hundreds of people gathered on the steps of the Capitol to raise awareness about poverty and the need to take action on Affordable Housing, Affordable Childcare and Justice Issues. I had an opportunity to meet with both of our representatives again. Both have impressive knowledge on the issues.

The focus of the legislature is changing. There is greater interest in using strategies to prevent poverty and to use early intervention strategies to reduce its devastating consequences…. 
Part of our conversations centered on access to Early Childhood Education and Preschools. Another topic was access to high quality Affordable Childcare for people living in poverty. “Research shows that children from lower income households who get good-quality pre-k are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college as well as hold a job and have higher earnings, and they are less likely to be incarcerated or receive public assistance.” 1

The legislature is using research compiled by the Federal Reserve. It has documented the amazing results generated by investing in our children early and the positive long-term impact it makes throughout a person’s lifetime. It is not only good public policy from a fiscal standpoint but, it uplifts human dignity. It creates a positive ripple effect across our communities. By investing in these strategies, children perform better in school and have better long-term prospects. It also reduces the number of people in the criminal justice system.

Unfortunately, too many children are missing opportunities to gain access to early learning opportunities and only experience failure in schools. This can cause long-term consequences with many students never graduating from high school or earning a GED. Employment options are limited. These individuals may also encounter the criminal justice system and spend years incarcerated. This disproportionally impacts poor people of color.

There are also several Justice Initiatives at the Legislature with bi-partisan support. For more details, visit the home page of Catholic Charities of the Twin Cities. If you would like more information on the ground breaking Perry Study or research by the Federal Reserve, visit the Federal Reserve website.

1 See James j. Heckman, Seong Hyeok Moon, Rodrigo Pinto, Peter A. Savelyeve and Adam Yavitz (2010) “The Rate of Return to the High Scope Perry Preschool Program” Journal of Public Economics vol. 94 (1-2) pp. 114-28 and Clive R. Belfield, Milagros Nores, Steve Barnett and Lawrence Schweinhart (2006), “The High Scope Perry Preschool Program: Cost-Benefit Analysis Using Data From Agae 40- Follow up” Journal of Human Resources, vol. 41 (winter) pp. 162-90.