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By Wendy Lazarus and Laurie Lipper
Co-Presidents of The Children’s Partnership

The Presidential Debates missed focusing on the job held by 155 million Americans: parenting.  Here are five questions that the candidates should have answered—and still can.

The Presidential Debates are over. And despite all the talk about jobs and the economy, there’s one job that neither Presidential candidate has mentioned much, even though 155 million Americans have it: the job of being a parent.

According to the US Census Bureau, there are an estimated 85.4 million moms and an estimated 70.1 million dads. These parents are doing a critically important job that the candidates do talk about: creating the 21st century workforce.

Way before a worker’s first paycheck, parents are the front line to achieve the much-touted goal of developing a workforce with the skills and savvy to keep America competitive and leading in the global economy.

How well parents are supported in raising their children will have more impact on the strength of our future workforce than most “job-related” decisions the next President will make.

While economic security—a good job—is at the top of the list, it is not the only item of concern to parents. Public policies matter greatly to them because the vast majority of parents use child care, public schools, or health care regulated by government (and some supported by government) in caring for their children.  Of course, when a parent is confident that their child is well, safe, and supervised, it helps them to be fully focused on the job—and that’s good for the economy, too.

Since parents play such a pivotal role in the nation’s future, it seems right that the candidates answer these five questions they missed during the debates. Both candidates still have time to do that over the next two weeks –at town halls, in ads, or during interviews.

QUESTION #1: HEALTH CARE FOR CHILDREN. Good health is foundational for children. Health care not only helps keep them physically healthy, but also in the classroom learning.  Every child needs preventive care like check-ups, immunizations, and dental care, and millions of children also need health care for ongoing conditions like asthma or diabetes.   What will your administration do to make sure our country invests in easily accessible, high-quality health care for every child? 

QUESTION #2: CHILD CARE AND AFTER-SCHOOL CARE. Some children just aren’t old enough to go to school, and their parents don’t have family or other ways to keep their children safe while they are at work.  Many older children don’t have someone at home to care for them after school. What will your administration do to help the tens of millions parents of preschool- and school-aged children who need safe and high-quality child care?

QUESTION #3: FAMILY VALUES. Each family brings its own values to their children—and parents want to be and should be the ones who decide what is right for their children.  However, nearly all children in America are exposed to a common culture in and through media.  How would your administration work with the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to be sure that parents have the tools and information needed to make informed media choices and make sure that children’s privacy can be protected?

QUESTION #4: EDUCATION. Education has gotten some attention in the presidential race. But parents ought to know very specifically how each candidate intends to improve the performance of our schools despite economic challenges that constrain resources.  How will you help turn around underperforming schools, while incentivizing all schools to impart the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century global and digital society? 

QUESTION #5: POVERTY. Children who grow up poor (a family of 3 earning less than $19,090 annually) are more likely to be in poor health and lack the job skills to support their own families. Yet, child poverty in the US is the highest it has been in 20 years.  How will your administration reverse the growing poverty rates among US children? 

Pretty much everyone agrees that a recovering economy with many good jobs is important for America—parents included.  But we shouldn’t forget how important it is to support the millions of Americans—employed outside the home or not—who are working every single day at a job that matters greatly to this generation of Americans and to the next.

The Children’s Partnership is a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan child advocacy organization.

The authors are also parents.

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