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Karen Showalter's picture

As a mom of two young and very rambunctious kids, I consider it a personal victory if we all make it out of the house wearing shoes each morning. So I totally understand how for many folks like me, the political ramblings taking place in Harrisburg can feel like a distant animal … interesting to observe when you cross its path, but a bit scary to approach.

But increasingly, that animal feels like it’s out of control. It’s trashing our yards, scaring the kids, threatening our schools, and generally not fun to be around. It needs some TLC, and maybe a bit of tough love too. And I know no one better positioned to offer that than Pennsylvania moms. 
If you’ve ever thought Pennsylvania politics don’t affect you, consider these facts: 
Over 3.1 million Pennsylvania women are in the labor force - making up 48 percent of the state workforce - and almost 2 million PA children (71 percent) live in families where both parents work. But our workplace policies haven't changed with our reality and just don't support moms and families.
  • Pennsylvania women who work full-time, year-round earn 77 cents on the dollar compared with similarly employed men. African-American women earn only $0.68 on the dollar compared to white men, and Latina women a shocking $0.56.
  • Only two cities in the Commonwealth - Philadelphia and Pittsburgh - have measures requiring employers provide paid sick days (huge victories for MomsRising and our movement!). What's worse: some corporations in Pittsburgh and lawmakers in Harrisburg are even trying to roll those back, and prevent new local paid sick days laws from passing throughout Pennsylvania (we've been successful at staving attacks off so far, thanks to many of you!).
  • In the year 2015, many pregnant or breastfeeding are denied medically-necessary workplace accommodations like sitting on a chair at work, or taking extra bathroom breaks.

Wow. Not a pretty picture. What do the state of politics look like for our kids?

Schools play an important role for our kids, in every way. The budget impasse is crippling our schools, including critical programs providing the essential early learning education Pennsylvania kids need. Almost 20% of PA children live in poverty. And more than that - over 550,000 of our kids - don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. Almost 600,000 Pennsylvania children receive free or reduced-price school lunch, which might well be their only healthy meal of the day. Less than half of these kids get free or reduced-price breakfast, and even fewer participate in summer meal programs. As the school day is getting healthier - thanks to the tireless work of schools and the new meal and snack standards - we need to ensure as many kids as possible are participating.  
Although 67% of women in Pennsylvania are registered to vote, although only 51% actually do. And women hold only 18% of the seats in the state legislature, and no women represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Congress. 
It's no exaggeration to say there is much to do. But moms know better than anyone: a little patience and a lot of perseverance can go a long, long way. (I, for example, hold onto the hope that one day my kid can tie his own shoes.)
We have tremendous power to demand healthy schools, communities and workplaces for our families. And the timing couldn’t be more urgent. Right now, our legislature is finalizing a budget that will impact schools in our state, considering bills to ensure workplace accommodations for pregnant and nursing moms, and exploring how to dig in around successful programs like the Farm Bill. Our schools are figuring out how to ensure all kids have a healthy school day, and our stores and restaurants are responding to parent demands to limit the pushing of unhealthy drinks on our kids. And our federal representatives are debating important measures like the Healthy Families Act, the FAMILY Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.    
All of that can seem like a lot to tackle. But getting started doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:
  • Join us on the Pennsylvania State Moms Force! We're building a community of moms eager to launch conversations and take action to build a more family-friendly Pennsylvania. 
  • Read the paper, watch the news and/or talk with your exercise buddies, neighbors or PTA. Knowing what’s going on is the first step towards knowing what you’d like to see. (We’ll send periodic updates around issues in Pennsylvania, too!)
  • Join us in dreaming about how our communities and state can do a better job to support moms, families and kids. Share it with others. This January we’re delivering our “wishes for a family-friendly Pennsylvania” to decision makers in Harrisburg. Can you take a moment to share a few thoughts on what a family-friendly PA should look like here: 
  • Connect with other moms eager to take action. Find your tribe! We're organizing state-wide calls and local Meet Ups, and invite you to host gatherings with friends and neighbors too. When we bring our minds and voices together, we're unstoppable. 
  • Register and vote! If you have time join the PTA, and/or attend town or city council meetings. Visit your legislators and talk about issues you care about. The best way to ensure our workplace, community, state and national policies support women and families is to be present in the spaces where those decisions are made. Register to vote here
Perhaps most importantly, keep the dream alive. Indeed at times like these politics - and let’s be honest the world - can feel overwhelming. But together we can harness these energies and transform them into something powerful. The time is now, and all of us Keystone moms are needed. Join us on the Pennsylvania Moms Force today! 

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