CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Democratic legislators joined with children's advocacy groups in the state Capitol on Tuesday to kick off the "Our Children, Our Future" campaign to fight child poverty in the state.
Speaking to a crowd of children and families, Senate President Jeffrey Kessler described the campaign to end child poverty as the most important one the state has seen in some time. He said child poverty has serious repercussions not only on children and families, but also on the state's budget.
"It's trying to lift people out of the situation they find themselves in," Kessler said. "Give them an opportunity so that we don't end up paying as taxpayers. It's not only the right thing to do from a moral and social standpoint; it's the right thing to do from a tax standpoint."
Senate Majority Leader John Unger compared the evils of society to the planet-destroying weapon in "Star Wars." He said child poverty was the crucial hub within the Death Star that legislators could attack.
"This Death Star continues to grow, day after day after day. And people try to fire on it to destroy it, but it won't [be destroyed], it's protected," Unger explained. "Except Luke Skywalker, who was the hero, figured out that there was one way of destroying this Death Star, and that is there is this one place in the Death Star where you could drop a bomb and it would blow up."
Unger said the education reforms the Legislature is considering are virtually moot if they fail to tackle child poverty.
"We can have the best teachers, we can have the best classrooms, we can have the best curriculum, but if that child is sitting in that classroom wondering when their next meal is going to come, how are we going to expect them to learn?" Unger said.
The campaign proposed a multifaceted platform to attacking child poverty in the state that focuses on health care, domestic violence prevention, child-care programs, healthy foods, reducing teen pregnancy and reducing school truancy.