The Time is Now for New York State to Commit to Reduce Child Poverty; Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Social Impact Review
On April 13, 2021 the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Social Impact Review published an interview with Schuyler Center board member James W. Lytle, Esq., a Senior Fellow with the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University; Kate Breslin, Schuyler Center President and CEO; and Dede Hill, Director of Policy.
James Lytle: Tell me a little bit about the Schuyler Center and its mission. How does [reducing child poverty] fit into the history and focus of it?
Kate Breslin: Well, I’ll start by noting that in New York State there are over 6,000 registered lobbyists. And most of them are not advocating for structural and systemic change that benefits low-income children and families. We are, and we work collaboratively with anybody who we can, but the reality is there are a lot of entities lobbying New York State government for self-interest.
Kate went on to discuss the history and mission of Schuyler Center—its roots in working collaboratively to advocate for structural and systematic change that benefits New York’s low-income children and families. The organization is coming upon its 150th anniversary, and this the child poverty initiative marks a cornerstone for Schuyler as it move toward its sesquicentennial.
The Child Poverty Reduction Act (S.2755A / A.1160A), a bill presently in both the Assembly and Senate that would commit New York’s legislators and governor to cutting child poverty in half in the next 10 years. The core objective is simple and matter of fact: set a goal of cutting child poverty in half, generate a group of people to make concrete recommendations to achieve that goal, and measure the progress.
Mr. Lytle moved on to ask about the current state of child poverty in New York, which is staggering, and has only become worse since we entered the pandemic.
Dede stressed that New York families at the poverty level are one missed paycheck or illness away from things unraveling in their economic lives. Kate added that children living in poverty and facing the stresses associated with it can develop significant and cumulative negative effects. A child whose family is experiencing poverty may also be experiencing food and housing insecurity and other challenges and those effects can be cumulative: they can affect a child’s capacity for succeeding in school, which then can have lasting effects on the ability to earn income, as the evidence is really showing.
Getting it through legislation this year will be a challenge, but that is also one of the very reasons that it really needs to happen this year, said Dede. “We are in the middle of a pandemic and we are facing extraordinary budget challenges.”
Kate added that this initiative simply cannot be an afterthought. “What we often hear is ‘we’ll get to that after whatever the other thing is.’ We’re working hard to make it not an afterthought, but a part of that rebuilding.”