Children's Defense Fund Update
May 12,1998
In This Issue:
-- Child Care
-- Family Income
-- Education
*** Child Care ***
The Children's Defense Fund and Stand for Children are excited to announce an opportunity for advocates to use a toll free number to let Congress know the importance of quality, affordable child care for America's children and working families. This is a fantastic opportunity for you and advocates across the country to be an effective voice for children in Congress.
Call your U.S. senators toll-free.  Dial 1-888-387-8263 (1-888-38 STAND UP) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time between May 11 and June 12.  You will hear a short message about child care and then your call will be transferred to the U.S. congressional switchboard.  The switchboard operator can help you identify your senators and connect you to deliver your message.
Tell your senators to STAND UP for quality, affordable child care and support a $20 billion increase in guaranteed funds to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to help states meet the needs of working families and improve the quality of child care and after-school programs.
CALL 1-888-38 STAND UP from May 11 - June 12
During the week of May 18th, the U.S. Senate will vote on a bill that is very important to our efforts to increase funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)  -- a Senate tobacco tax bill.  This bill is important because it may include funding for the CCDBG.  This may be our best opportunity this year to fund a major increase for child care.
Throughout this month, we would like to generate thousands of calls from across the country to the Senate to give them the message that quality, affordable child care is important to the American families.  I urge you to please forward this e-mail to your colleagues, friends, and family.  You can also post this information on your organization's web site or include it in an upcoming newsletter or mailing.
Free calls courtesy of Working Assets Long Distance.
*** Family Income ***
The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (S.1882) is expected to come before the U.S. Senate soon.  Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) will offer an amendment to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to allow states to count some post-secondary education as a means of fulfilling the work requirements under the 1996 federal welfare law.  His amendment would give states the flexibility to allow up to two years of post-secondary or vocational education.  It would also make it possible for more adults to participate in vocational education by not counting teen parents who are completing high school as part of a limited proportion of the caseload who are allowed to take vocational education courses.  (Teens would continue to be required to attend high school or its equivalent.)  The current law only allows one year of vocational education to be counted as fulfilling the federal work requirement, with only a small number of adults eligible.  Other forms of post-secondary education (college, for instance) don't count under current law unless the individual is working at least 20 hours of work a week in addition to the course requirements.   
Children whose parents have little education are at extreme risk of poverty.  About two-thirds (64 percent) of mothers who have not finished high school live in poverty with their children (1994 Census Bureau data).  For each advance in educational attainment, more families escape poverty.  Twenty-eight percent of mothers with 1-3 years of post-secondary education are poor, dropping to only 10.5 percent in poverty who have graduated from a four-year college.  Senator Wellstone's amendment increases the chance that at least some parents will be able to get the skills and credentials they need to find an above-poverty job.
CALL YOUR SENATORS!  Ask them to vote for Senator Wellstone's Higher/Vocational Education amendment to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (S. 1882) (also thank its co-sponsors, Senators Wendell Ford (D-KY), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Richard Durbin (D-IL).  The Higher Education Act is likely to come up as soon as the week of May 18.
*** Education ***
On February 8, 1996, President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law.  Under the new law, universal service (which had previously been designed to guarantee affordable phone access to consumers) was expanded to include an "E-Rate" (education rate) for schools and libraries.
As part of the E-Rate, telecommunication carriers now must offer their lowest rates to elementary and secondary schools and to public libraries.  In addition, schools and libraries will receive 20-90% discounts for telecommunication services, internet access, and internal connections.  The deepest discounts are available to the least well-off schools and libraries (those with the highest proportions of students eligible for the federal school lunch program), and schools and libraries in rural areas.  An annual cap of $2.25 billion is set on the universal service fund to reimburse telecommunication providers.
Rules for the new E-Rate were established by the FCC in May of 1997.  The program began on January 1, 1998 with $625 million available for E-Rate discounts.  Beginning on July 1, 1998, collections for the E-Rate are expected to increase for the year. To date, more than 30,000 schools and libraries have applied.
While everyone can agree that up-to-date technology and internet access is critical to the education of our children, it appears that some local companies now want to pull the plug on this new program.  A number of long distance companies appear to want to profit off schools rather than lend a hand to educate our future leaders.  The telecommunication industry is flooding the FCC with requests to limit services and essentially gut the program.  You can help save the E-Rate program for schools and libraries by using your internet browser to find to access the "Save the E-Rate Campaign" automated e-mail action center.  From there, you can send a message to Congress, the FCC, and telecommunication companies in support of the E-Rate program.
Act now -- the telecommunication industry is, and they are powerful!!!  Pass this alert along to others who may share our concern about the education of America's children.
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Kimberly Taylor
Children's Defense Fund
25 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
202/662-3540 (fax) 
"What is done to children, they will do to society." --Karl Menninger