First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy organization that works to make children and families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions, has released a new report called Big Ideas: Children in the Southwest. So why focus on just kids in the Southwest? Well, as is pointed out in the report, the Southwest states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado) account for one-quarter of the nation’s children and 90 percent of the U.S. child population growth that happened between 2000-2010. In fact, Texas alone accounted for 50 percent of that growth. As eloquently stated by First Focus President, Bruce Lesley, in the introduction:
“As such, it is a place that holds the key for much of our nation’s future. We can do right by our children and take advantage of the region’s opportunity, enchantment, and grandeur, or we can fail them. It is our choice as to whether we make the proper investments and decisions about our collective future.
To do right by our children in the Southwest and around the country, we need to tackle the problems facing them with a proactive set of solutions that will allow them to reach their full potential.”
The report tackles many big issues facing kids in the Southwest, including over taxation of the poor, promoting grade-level reading, housing issues in Colonias, immigration, and access to health through public insurance and community outreach. The ideas are rich and tackled frankly, identifying both the bright spots and the barriers to success.
I encourage everyone, especially our state elected officials who will begin earnest work very soon during the next Texas Legislative Session, to take a look at this report and to ask yourself how you can use these big ideas to make our kids, Texas, the Southwest, and the U.S. stronger. These are choices we can make—choices to build bridges or fences for the next generation. Let’s build bridges together.