Children's Issues: Legislation


Act to Leave No Child Behind
On May 23, 2001, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Representative George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Act to Leave No Child Behind (S. 940/H.R. 1990), comprehensive legislation aimed at bettering the lives of children. The Act to Leave No Child Behind is divided into four categories with twelve different titles. The bill is structured on the idea that all children need a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, and a Safe Start. The Healthy Start provisions focus on child health, Head Start on child care and education, Fair Start on family income, and Safe Start on child welfare, mental health, violence prevention, and youth development. A summary of each section of the bill is included below. As the Act to Leave No Child Behind is basically a platform of ideas, many individual bills with provisions similar to those in the Act have been introduced and continue to be introduced into the 107th Congress.

Healthy Start
Title I: Health - The Act would ensure that every uninsured child has health coverage by creating a federal MediKids program similar to Medicaid for the elderly. The bill would also make it easier for families to enroll their children by simplifying and coordinating the Medicaid program and S-CHIP and eliminating application and enrollment barriers. A Children's Access to Care Commission would be created to address the barriers to health care families currently face. Finally, measures would be taken to reduce public health risks and environmental health risks for children. Examples of such measures would be asthma treatment and management programs, anti-smoking campaigns, lead-based paint elimination, full immunization coverage, reduction in toxic chemical use in schools, and required testing of chemicals based on children's exposure.

Title II: Parenting - The bill would promote state and local parenting support and education programs. Under this bill, the Family and Medical Leave Act would be expanded to apply to employers with 25 or more employees, rather than the current 50 employees. In addition, the bill would extend health care coverage to uninsured parents whose children are eligible for S-CHIP or Medicaid. The bill would also strengthen consumer right-to-know laws to ensure that parents are aware of the potentially harmful substances in products to which their children are exposed. Finally, grants would be provided to encourage non-custodial parents to contribute financially and socially to their children's development.

Head Start
Title III: Child Care and Head Start - The Act would expand early child development programs for infants and toddlers, as well as provide access to pre-kindergarten to families who want to participate. Under this bill, child care and Head Start for three and four-year olds would be fully funded for those who are eligible. The bill also focuses on improving child care programs, providing better training for care workers, and reducing barriers to enrollment. Education - The Act to Leave No Child Behind would provide grants to help school districts recruit, train, and hire additional teachers in order to improve teaching and reduce class-size. New incentives for teachers would be offered to recruit more talented individuals. The bill would also call for increased accountability for state and local education agencies. To encourage school construction and modernization, new tax incentives would be offered. Finally, a new initiative aimed at expanding books in the homes of low-income families would be included.

Fair Start
Title IV: Tax Relief for Low-Wage Working Families - The bill would increase the child tax credit from $500 to $1000 and make it fully refundable. It would also expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for families with three or more children and reduce the marriage penalty for families eligible for EITC. Finally, the Act would expand the Dependent Care Tax Credit to increase the slide to 50 percent, make it refundable, and annually index income phase-outs and cost of care for inflation.

Title V: Family Income - First, the bill would ensure that children and families receive all supports for which they are eligible by initiating a Gateways Program to provide grants to train caseworkers, expand outreach programs, improve application procedures, and track the extent to which low-income families receive their benefits. The bill would encourage states to reduce the barriers preventing eligible families from receiving Food Stamps, Medicaid, and child care assistance. Under this bill, the federal minimum wage would be increased to $6.65 over three installments and indexed for inflation, a living wage policy would be implemented for employees of federal contractors and subcontractors, and Unemployment Insurance would be more accessible for low-income families with children. The Act would also help low-income parents get and keep jobs with above poverty incomes, create incentives to serve families effectively, address work barriers, offer protections for families in need, and reauthorize Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Title VI: Nutrition - The Act to Leave No Child Behind would expand the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to more preschoolers and toddlers. It would increase the number of after-school programs providing snacks, and in some cases dinner, to youths. In terms of the Food Stamp Program, the bill would restore food stamp eligibility to legal immigrants and increase food stamps for low-wage families with children, especially those with high housing costs.

Title VII: Housing - Over the next ten years, 1 million new Section 8 vouchers would be provided. The bill would also repair and rehabilitate public housing for families with children and provide additional grants to states to increase the supply of affordable housing.

Safe Start
Title VIII: Child Welfare - The Act would help ensure that more children are in safe, nurturing, and permanent homes. More federal money would be given to the welfare system to help those children and parents who enter into the welfare system. The bill would also promote safe and stable families by reauthorizing and expanding the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. The bill also calls for funding to be restored for the Social Services Block Grant which supports a range of services for abused and neglected children. Finally, the Act to Leave No Child Behind would create initiatives to encourage effective approaches to prevent and treat domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and mental health problems in children.

Title IX: Youth Development - This bill would provide increased funding to support after-school and youth development programs, such as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program and Americorps.

Title X: Juvenile Justice - The Act would increase funding for delinquency prevention programs, create state incentives to provide sufficient treatment and after-care services for youthful offenders, and prohibit delinquents from being detained as adults under any circumstances. Additionally, this bill would provide health, mental health, education, substance abuse and counseling services during and after the detention period. Finally, this bill would help states address the disparities in treatment of delinquents and ensure all juveniles are treated fairly.

Title XI: Gun Safety - The Act would close existing gunshow loopholes, require mandatory safety-locks with the sale of handguns, ban the importation of large capacity ammunition clips capable of firing more than 10 rounds, ban the possession of assault weapons by juveniles, and ban the possession of handguns by individuals under the age of 21. In addition, the bill would enact a one-gun-a-month purchase limit, regulate internet firearm sales, and strengthen the enforcement of gun laws.

Title XII: Miscellaneous - The bill would direct the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a blue-ribbon commission to identify and highlight family-friendly practices that employers and the private sector can promote. Additionally, the bill would strengthen national data collection and dissemination of data on the status of children and families who are or have been recipients of government assistance.