Budget does no favors to moms and kids

Posted: May 14, 2012

The state Senate was probably not trying to be ironic when it passed its version of a state budget last week, a few days before Mother’s Day.

Although the proposed budget restored $500 million to Gov. Corbett’s original plan, including some education cuts, the new budget remains a document that does no favors to mothers and children.

The Senate’s version keeps Corbett’s most damaging cuts to social services, including the elimination of the General Assistance cash-grant program, some of which goes to very-low-income children and domestic-violence victims. It restores some money to social services but retains a new block-grant structure, and keeps an $8 million cut to child care.

Happy Mother’s Day.

While the state budget cuts fall more heavily on the vulnerable, they simply underscore a general conflict in politics vs. policy: elected leaders who promote family values but whose policies don’t reflect the realities of what it can take to keep families together.

Pennsylvania is not alone. A recent report that analyzes individual state laws covering job protection and maternity-releated family leave is a good reminder that the United States as a whole does little to support the working realities of parents.

Case in point: Only half of the workforce in the country can take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act that allows them up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to give birth, or care for a child or sick family member. That means that half of working America is out of luck: They can be refused any unpaid leave time, lose their jobs, or take a leave and be reassigned to a much-worse job when they come back to work from having a child. Keep in mind that the FMLA is less than 20 years old.

The FMLA provides protections covering only unpaid leave. As the report by the National Partnership for Women & Families points out, the absence of paid leave for childbirth and child care adds additional stresses to families. The U.S. is one of six countries in the world that has no policy covering paid maternity leave. And yet, 71 percent of children live in families where all parents work, and in two-thirds of families, women are primary or co-breadwinners. This means that the birth of a child is not just a joy, but an economic hardship — and potentially a cause for firing — for every day his parent has to stay home caring for him.

Only two states, California and New Jersey, have enacted laws providing paid family leave. (Connecticut recently passed a law providing paid sick leave.) Those states have a range of laws that help support parents.

Pennsylvania earned a D.

Sunday, most of us spent time honoring our own mothers, but before next Mother’s Day, we need to remind lawmakers that they need to start honoring everyone else’s. If politicians want strong, intact families, they have a part to play in giving parents the help they need to build them.

Now the good news

The Philadelphia School District is supposed to be the worst of the worst, the system that can produce no successes, only fresh new crises, yet last week some good news slipped past: U.S. News & World Report ranked Masterman School as No. 1 in the state. And nine Philadelphia district and charter high schools made the top 50 list of the best high schools in the state (Girls High is at 51). Find the full list at www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools. n

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