This November, Arkansas voters will elect candidates to important public offices, including seats in the U.S. Congress and the Arkansas General Assembly. The winners of these elections will be in a unique position to make public policy that will impact the future well-being and success of Arkansas’s children and families.
Making children our top priority during this year’s election should be a no-brainer. According to the 2017 Kids Count Data Book released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Arkansas ranks 45th in overall child well-being. One in four Arkansas children lives in poverty, which we know can hinder a child’s development and ability to succeed. The public policy decisions our new elected officials make will influence many important issues, including health care, hunger, early childhood development, education, and family economic security. The elections will also help shape future state budget and tax policies. These will determine how much funding is available for services that benefit many of Arkansas’s most vulnerable children.
The 2018 Arkansas elections are more important than ever given the hyper-partisan, chaotic political environment that currently permeates Washington, D.C. Federal programs critical to the well-being of children and families have either been under attack or, in some cases, largely ignored. The U.S. Congress recently dealt a major blow to the future funding base for many of these programs with its passage of the tax bill and a budget resolution that promises major cuts over the next decade. These decisions will pose major fiscal challenges for states like Arkansas, which must figure out how to respond to federal policy changes impacting children and families.
It’s time to make children Arkansas’s top priority. Children can’t vote, they don’t make campaign contributions, and they don’t host political fundraisers for candidates or political parties. Yet our children will be the ones most affected by our votes and by the decisions made by elected officials. As advocates for kids, it’s up to us to make sure their voices are heard. It’s up to us to make sure voters and candidates are informed of the issues important to their well-being. And it’s up to us to make sure these issues are addressed after the elections are over.
We offer the “2018 Voters’ Guide” in this spirit. We hope voters and candidates across the political spectrum will read this guide and be informed of the issues important to our children.