In college, we had something called the Feb. Club. A different person hosted a party every single night of this dreary month. (I graduated just fine, by the way.)
I wish our present gloom could be chased away with a keg and Prince on the stereo. But we have a budget mess down in Olympia, and we don't have much to numb the pain. Instead, lawmakers are looking at a menu of cuts to fill a nearly $5 billion hole, and they're likely to hurt all of us.
I raise the issue of the state budget because so many of the things we write about in Seattle's Child could be affected by the cuts legislators are talking about.
Our schools: Class-size reduction funds will likely disappear, as will the pay raises for teachers approved by voters several years ago. The Governor's proposed budget eliminates state funding for the Gifted Program and stalls the expansion of full-day kindergarten around the state.
Child care: Lawmakers are looking at slashing the Working Connections Child Care program, which helps low-income parents afford child care so they can stay on the payroll instead of the welfare rolls. Funding for 3-year-olds in ECEAP, the state's version of the federal Head Start program, will likely be cut.
Food: The governor proposed eliminating the state's food assistance program, which helps legal immigrants who are barred from federal Food Stamps because they've lived here less than five years.
Health care: The Basic Health program may well go away entirely, as could the program that pays doctors to care for undocumented kids. The state will likely cut its support for community health clinics and public health programs.
Public institutions: The Washington State History Museum is on the chopping block, as is money for operating state parks.
I could go on and on, and we won't really know what will be cut until the House and Senate forge their budget bills. But the cuts will be many.
Moms are notoriously disengaged from the political process. We're busy people, and it's hard to focus on the big picture when you've got a little one or two demanding that you meet their needs first. But we can't afford to sit on the sidelines with so much at stake. It isn't easy to cut $5 billion out of a stressed state budget, and voters gave lawmakers a mandate to fill the hole without raising any taxes. If there's something you want to protect, legislators need to know.
What do you care about? Education? Health care? Protecting your kids from toxics in the environment? Whatever it is, there's an organization out there dying to give you information and offering you easy ways to tell your lawmakers what you want for kids and families. The Children's Alliance (full disclosure: I used to work there), the League of Education Voters and the Washington Toxics Coalition are all good places to start.
A few dreary February hours spent taking action will certainly get us closer to a brighter spring than resurrecting the Feb. Club with a microbrew and tunes on the iPod.
Managing Editor Seattle's Child