Earlier this year, PTA presented Ted Kennedy with the National Congress of Parents and Teachers Founders Award for his lifelong dedication to service. From his efforts to outlaw segregation through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to his continual support of Head Start, Sen. Kennedy has played a significant role in far more aspects of federal policy than I can recount. But it is his role in supporting children and families that will always stand out most prominently in my mind.
He was a strong supporter of launching federal aid for public schools, and helped ensure that a free and quality public education would be available for every child. He also helped author bills requiring employers to provide unpaid leave after childbirth and establishing the Department of Defense’s revered child care system. On the issue closest to his heart—healthcare—Sen. Kennedy helped create the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program. As a true advocate for children, he also knew the importance of parent involvement:
“Good citizenship begins at home, with the values that parents teach children. Parenting is a challenge in any era, but never more so than today. Parents know that every hour spent working overtime is an hour away from their children. If they can’t attend a PTA meeting or a school play or a sports contest, they lose an opportunity to learn more about their child at school. They know instinctively that the quality of their skill as parents affects the learning of their children, their sense of the future, and their contributions to their communities in their own day and generation.”
We supported many of Sen. Kennedy’s legislative efforts, including the Public School Repair and Renovation Act, the Keeping Parents and Communities Engaged Act, and his bill to provide relief to students and schools affected by Hurricane Katrina. We were proud to have him as a guest speaker at the 2004 PTA National Legislative Conference, but prouder still of all he managed to accomplish for children during nearly 47 years in the Senate. We now stand in mourning with the rest of America at the loss of a great champion for children.
Until Next time…
Charles J. “Chuck” Saylors
National PTA President