Our Turn: ‘Our Kids’ deserve a chance to succeed

Last modified: Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Over the past 25 years, our country has grown increasingly divided. Much is made of the growing political polarization but that’s not what we are addressing today. Instead, we are writing about the distinctly different opportunities for our kids to experience the American Dream.

Both of us grew up believing passionately in the promise of this Dream – the idea that everyone, regardless of family background, with enough hard work and grit can get ahead and create a good life for themselves and their family. Grounded in the Declaration of Independence, equality of opportunity is a bedrock value at the very core of our identity as a nation.

There is now too much evidence to ignore that the American Dream is out of reach for too many of our kids.

Kids born to parents with a college degree have a vastly different experience than kids born to parents lacking a college education. Educated parents are more likely to get married and stay that way. Research shows that they spend more time reading and engaging their young children – “Goodnight Moon time” – supporting healthy brain development. They are more likely to have regular family dinners. Kids from families with college-educated parents are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities, have better grades and test scores, and be more connected to positive adult role models. These kids are more likely to go to college and complete their degree.

Kids born to parents who did not complete high school or community college have a vastly different experience and outcomes than the ones described above.

These working class families are way more likely to be headed by a single parent, which by simple division means less time for Goodnight Moon, family dinners and coordinating extracurricular activities. But it isn’t just about time. It’s also about money. Stagnant wages for working-class families have not kept up with the rising costs of child care, housing and food. Paying for extracurricular activities or extras like tutoring is beyond what most working-class families can afford.

We are inspired by Robert Putnam’s research and recently published book titled Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, and we have united from opposite sides of the political aisle to create a bipartisan force committed to tackling this challenge. Our Kids New Hampshire is a new coalition of civic leaders from around the state who represent the entire political spectrum and wholeheartedly agree that closing the opportunity gap is the most pressing issue of our time.

Our Kids New Hampshire is taking these local concerns together with the most recent national and state-based data and hosting discussions with each of the presidential candidates. These discussions are off the record, face-to-face conversations about a complex issue that is critically important to understand and will require all of us rolling up our sleeves and coming together to solve.

We invite each presidential candidate to give this topic the time and attention it demands by meeting with us to hear what is going on in the lives of everyday New Hampshire citizens and to share their thoughts and experiences of what they are witnessing on the campaign trail.

The time is now for all of us to come together and take real steps to narrow the nation’s opportunity gap – for the sake of all Our Kids.

(Steve Duprey and Lewis Feldstein are co-chairmen of Our Kids New Hampshire.)