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Casey pledges to execute ‘five freedoms’

US senator visits early learning school

Sentinel photo by BROOKE CROUSE
Sen. Bob Casey reads “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina to Step-by-Step School for Early Learning’s “leaping lizards,” pre-kindergarten students ages 4 to 5, who collectively said “tsk, tsk, tsk,” along with Casey and the book’s characters.

STATE COLLEGE — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) shared his plan to expand Pennsylvania children’s freedoms when he visited the Step-by-Step School for Early Learning on Wednesday.

Casey read to the “leaping lizards,” pre-kindergarten students ages 4 and 5, before participating in a “chemical reactions” science project with the students.

“You can see in there, they were learning about chemical reactions at a younger age than I could ever remember about a chemical reaction,” Casey said regarding the opportunities available when child care is affordable and consistent.

The senator laid out his list of the five freedoms and policies that he promotes:

¯ Health care, starting with automatic Medicaid enrollment for all children at birth;

¯ Economic security, including children’s savings accounts, child tax credit and even a children’s allowance;

¯ Learning through increases funding for the child care entitlement to states and the federal Head Start program, and passage of the child and dependent care tax credit enhancement act;

¯ Food security, achieved through direct certification for school meals, strengthening the community eligibility provision and retroactive reimbursement for school meals; and

¯ Harm prevention, achieved by expanding investments in child abuse prevention and treatment and formula grants for state attorneys general.

Casey shared his feelings regarding the outlined policies and the state of the nation.

“It seems like no matter where you turn, with regard to a national goal or a strategic imperative, you can’t separate it from the investments that we have to make in our children,” he said.

The first policy, automatic Medicaid for children, would allow parents to opt out if they already have insurance yet ensures children’s coverage.

His economic security plan establish savings accounts for children started by the government in addition to tax cuts for families with children. But, Casey said that more policy lies under the umbrella that is economic security.

His third policy, regarding the freedom to learn provides, affordable childcare, which entails adding $18 billion more to the existing $10 billion Head Start program.

Casey plans to add funds to childcare programs in addition to enhancements to the “Child and Dependent Care tax credit” that appears in his “Five Freedoms for America’s Children” report.

“The problem with some of these programs is you have a huge gap between those who are eligible for Head Start and those who are being served those who are eligible for assistance for childcare and receive those receiving assistance. So, we’ve got to make sure that at least at minimum, the families and the children that are currently eligible are going to be able to be served,” Casey said.

He added that this problem regarding those not being served in the “gap” could not be solved “under current funding.”

The fourth policy details additions to provisions in feeding programs, including school breakfast, lunch, snack programs and more.

Casey’s last freedom, safety from harm, would offer dollars to state programs that protect children from abuse and neglect.

Casey said he would fund all five freedoms using the tax code. He said that this enaction would make the tax code fairer to families.

“We’ve got to do it on our own. And we are going to do it,” he said.

Casey’s plan is outlined on his website at https://www.casey.senate.gov/fivefreedoms.

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