Scott on Flint Water Crisis: “Local, State and Federal Governments Have All Failed Our Children”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of the Committee on Education and the Workforce made the following remarks on the House floor this evening during a Special Order hour on the Flint, Michigan water crisis:
“Thank you, Congresswoman Watson Coleman, for your leadership and coordinating this Special Order. And thank you to the Michigan Representatives who've been working so hard to try to respond to this tragedy.
“There will be a lot of investigations designed to find out what happened, whose fault it was, whether or not any crimes were committed and how to prevent this from happening in the future. But there's one thing we know and that is that children have been poisoned by lead exposure. As the ranking member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, we've begun the process to determine how to appropriately respond because we know that lead poisoning creates severe challenges to the public school system. Children are entitled to equal educational opportunity, and that goes back to the Brown v. Board of Education case, where the Court found 'it is doubtful that any child may be reasonably be expected to succeed in life without an education' and that right – and that opportunity – is 'a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.'
“Now, local, state and federal governments have all failed our children, allowing them to be poisoned by lead exposure, and we owe it to our children to mitigate to the extent possible the adverse effects of lead poisoning so they can achieve an equal educational opportunity. Research already shows that the adverse effects of lead exposure are great, due to decreased academic attainment, increased need for special education, higher likelihood of behavioral challenges and can result to significant loss in earnings, tax revenues and additional burdens to the criminal justice system and great stress on our hospital systems.
“The opportunity for a strong start to a successful life will be stunted for Flint's children if they are not given the necessary resources, including early intervention and access to high-quality early learning programs such as Head Start to help them overcome the life-long effects of exposure to lead. Now, we have an obligation to provide these resources and provide them as soon as possible while they can be most effective. Current funding, however, only allows 20 percent of Flint children who are eligible for Head Start to actually attend Head Start. The children who are able to participate in Head Start can receive early screening services for developmental disabilities; families can receive counseling and assistance in accessing services. Head Start can provide the Flint families affected by the disaster with early intervention services that they desperately need, but in order to do so, all eligible for Head Start, not just the 20 percent presently participating, need to be able to access Head Start.
“We need to come up with the money to make that possible. Make no mistake – we should not expect the fix to this crisis to be easy or cheap. The impact of lead exposure on young children is long lasting and our response must have a long-term approach. We must have all the tools available to us, starting with prenatal care and screenings for pregnant moms, early intervention to identify special education needs, Title I funding from ESEA, after-school programs, even investment in college access efforts.
“Our children's futures have been compromised by bad governmental decisions, but we know how to mitigate that damage and the response has to be more than just the infrastructure improvements and repairs to finally provide clean water. We need a comprehensive response, and members of the Committee on Education and the Work force will be working to formulate the appropriate response to the educational challenges. Other committees will work to the responses within their jurisdictions. But one thing is certain – it is imperative that these resources be provided now without delay. Thank you and I yield back.”
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