Raising the minimum wage is a step – But it’s just the first one.

The calls for increasing the minimum wage continue to get louder, with four more states voting for measures to raise their minimum wages last Tuesday, bringing the overall number of states that have passed such laws to 29. At the same time, there is little doubt that raising the minimum wage is long overdue and an essential step in assisting individuals and families escape poverty. It is but one step up the socio-economic ladder. Real and sustainable progress toward eliminating poverty necessitates a multipronged approach. Two critical outlets to genuine economic empowerment, education, and workforce development training should be fully embraced and provided adequate funding.
The first and most important step to accomplishing this is ensuring that those individuals who have the power work tirelessly to remove inherent barriers to economic opportunity for all. This will not happen on its own, people affect change, and in this country, one of the most powerful ways to that is at the ballot box: Peter Edelman expressed that exact sentiment in a New York Times opinion article on July 28, 2012, in which he said:
“A surefire politics of change would necessarily involve getting people in the middle — from the 30th to the 70th percentile — to see their economic self-interest. If they vote in their self-interest, they’ll elect people who are likely to be more aligned with people with lower incomes and them. As long as people in the middle identify more with people on the top than those on the bottom, we are doomed. The obscene amount of money flowing into the electoral process makes things harder yet.”
“The change has to come from the bottom up and from synergistic leadership that draws it out. When people decide they have had enough and there are candidates who stand for what they want, they will vote accordingly.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/why-cant-we-end-poverty-in-america.html?pagewanted=all
THE CALL TO EMBRACE EDUCATION
“These children and their parents know that getting an education is not only their right but a passport to a better future – for the children and the country.” — Harry Belafonte
The website DOSOMETHING.ORG lists 11 facts about education and poverty in America, the one common thread that runs through all 11 is that those living in poverty have a higher likelihood of failing academically and thus remaining in poverty. https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-education-and-poverty-america
Study after study has shown that education is one of if not the critical factor in escaping poverty. A child’s desire to learn must be encouraged at an early age and continually stimulated as they grow. Adults from family members and local educators to business leaders and politicians must shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that there is both a sound home and educational environment where a child’s innate desire to learn and discover is cultivated, and that funding for education is a top priority.
Of course, everything comes with a price, and education is not free. Money is needed to provide the type of quality education that children need today to compete in the increasingly competitive global economy. Yes, indeed, you can’t merely throw money at every problem and hope that fixes it; education is no different. But you can make smart decisions about where the money is thrown, and in the case of education, when money is used smartly, more is never less. Elaine Weiss, the national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education (BBA), wrote that kids living in poverty need more, not less, of the supports that help upper-class children thrive. These include small classes, challenging, rich curriculum, individualized instruction, and supportive responses to emotional and behavioral challenges. It also means ensuring a meaningful “floor” – in terms of school readiness, physical and mental health, and nutrition – on which they can stand in order to viably learn. http://billmoyers.com/2013/11/06/the-real-21st-century-problem-in-public-education-is-poverty/.
THE CALL TO FUND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
A well-educated, highly skilled workforce may be the essential ingredient to strengthen our economy and ensure a high quality of life.
As more children learn how to download and use an app on their smartphone and tablet before they learn their ABCs, it is becoming increasingly clear that advances in technology create a job market that many Americans are simply not prepared for. Communities must continue to push for and demand that funds are appropriated for workforce development programs that, as Senator Bob Portman, one of the co-authors of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), said, “modernizes and improves existing federal workforce development programs to be more responsive to the needs of employers, and more effective in connecting the unemployed with good-paying jobs”.
The bipartisan (yes, that word still exists) Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 22, 2014, is a start. As the President stated:
“The bill I’m about to sign…will give communities more certainty to invest in job-training programs for the long run.” He added that the bill would help bring those training programs into the 21st century by “building on what we know works based on evidence, and based on tracking what delivers” for those who enroll in the programs — more partnerships with employers, tools to measure performance, and flexibilities for states and cities to innovate and run their training programs in ways best suited for their particular demographics and particular industries.
There is no question that the road out of poverty is a very long one and will require continued vigilance by all. We must continue to make our voice heard by calling for increases in the minimum wage, but we must not lose sight of the other paths out of poverty that must be paved if we are to see its end truly.

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