ANNAPOLIS – Showing bipartisan intentions to address the needs of their youngest constituents, more than 25 legislators on Wednesday signed a “Contract with Maryland’s Children.”
The document, a play on the Republicans’ Contract with America, outlines goals in four areas: education, health, economic well-being and safety.
“If you care about the future, you want to ensure there are good public policies for kids,” said Susan Leviton, public policy chairman of Advocates for Children and Youth, a non-profit group based in Baltimore.
Leviton was among about 100 activists on children’s issues who gathered here for the Sixth Annual Children’s Legislative Agenda Day.
Lawmakers who signed the contract included Del. Elizabeth Bobo, D-Howard, Del. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Baltimore, Del. C. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick, and Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson, R-Carroll.
“I really agree with it in principle,” Ferguson said, adding that the contract “doesn’t box you in as to how to make these things happen.”
Noting the signatures of members of both parties, he asked, “How can anyone not support the children?”
The rub will come with the differences between Democratic and Republican philosophies of how to reach those shared goals, Ferguson said. “But in principle, we have to start somewhere,” he said.
Hecht, who has sponsored bills aimed at protecting families, said she wanted to be among the first legislators to sign. “It’s important that we remember the future and the least protected in our society – the children,” she said.
And Bobo said her signature represented a promise to “a group that can’t get here very often to represent themselves.”
The contract, sponsored by nineteen organizations, is the first of its kind for Maryland, Leviton said. Those who sign pledge to:
– Expand the availability of child care and pre-school education programs.
– Provide a quality education in a safe school environment.
– Reduce dropout rates and prepare all students for jobs.
– Increase the availability of programs that support and strengthen families.
– Promote prevention of juvenile crime and delinquency.
– Assure enforcement of child support.
– Build family economic independence and security.
– Expand job opportunities for young people.
– Support health care standards that ensure all pregnant women and babies get appropriate services.
– Promote local health services for all children through outreach, health education and lead screening. – Increase health insurance protection for all children. -30-