Magazine article The Nation

Games Boys Play

Magazine article The Nation

Games Boys Play

Article excerpt

Games Boys Play

For two years in a row now Congress has packed its bags and gone home for the election recess without passing a nearly completed piece of child care legislation. Last year Marian Wright Edelman, the eloquent president of the Children's Defense Fund, publicly rebuked two prominent liberal Democrats for their dilatory tactics. In a memo she accused Representatives Tom Downey and George Miller of leading a "private guerrilla war" to kill child care legislation. "Is having it all your way or nothing so important that you are willing to rob millions of children and working parents of the immediate chance to get decent child care as soon as possible?"

Downey called Edelman's memo immature and petulantly announced he would no longer return her telephone calls. Miller said that Edelman, who for twenty years has been among the country's most forceful advocates of children's interests, was "hysterical and behaving like someone spurned."

Behind the insults lies an important tactical dispute that must be resolved in the next few weeks if child care legislation is to pass. As in the two previous years, the House and the Senate have passed different versions of a bill to provide $1.75 billion to states for expansion of child care programs for low-income families. In the Senate version the entire $1.75 billion would come from discretionary funding sources, subject each year to Congressional approval. In the House bill the bulk of the funding would come through an increase in existing programs, among them -- and most in dispute -- Title XX social services block grants. From the point of view of child welfare activists, this is not the way to go. "Title XX is not a funding stream that will grow," argues Amy Wilkins of the Children's Defense Fund, "while even under Reagan we got increases in discretionary funding for such programs as Head Start. …

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