Working families was a main focus in President Obama's 2015 State of the Union address, with an emphasis on helping parents ease the financial struggles of raising kids.
Last night, the President shared the story of one couple, Rebekah and Ben Erler, who raised two sons through tough times. In sharing their story, President Obama said, "America, Rebekah and Ben's story is our story. They represent the millions who have worked hard, and scrimped, and sacrificed, and retooled."
Rebekah and Ben's story also became the foundation for the President to segue into other important family concerns, which included the following goals.
Goal: Affordable, High-Quality Child Care
For families like the Erlers who need (but can't afford) outside help to care for their kids, the President promised to make "affordable, high-quality child care" more available. "It's not a nice-to-have -- it's a must-have. It's time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women's issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us," he said.
Goal: A New Tax Cut for Children
In order to make affordable child care a possibility, the President supported "lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year." As a step toward this direction, he proposed "a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year." He also proposed closing tax loopholes that allowed America's one percent to evade paying taxes in order to "help more families pay for child care and send their kids to college."
Goal: Paid Sick Leave and Paid Maternity Leave
Forty-three million people in the U.S. do not get paid sick leave, a shocking statistic that the President shared. "Today, we're the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers," he said. "And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home."
To implement paid sick leave and paid maternity leave, the President already started the ball rolling. Last week, he announced that federal employees would be getting up to six weeks of paid maternity leave for the birth or adoption of a child, which he hoped to expand to more moms across America. And he's supporting a new act that will give employees up to seven paid sick days in a year.
Goal: Free Community College
The 2013 and 2014 State of the Union addresses focused on providing universal pre-K to America, allowing kids to have free schooling before kindergarten. This year, the President focused more on higher education.
To ensure that kids have the opportunity to attend college without fear of debt, the President promised "to lower the cost of community college -- to zero." Because 40 percent of kids choose to attend community college, he saw value in showing kids "that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today." In cutting costs, Obama hoped to reduce the burden of college loans, "so that student debt doesn't derail anyone's dreams."
Goal: Online Privacy for Children
With the increase in cyberbullying and hacking, the President also made online privacy a priority, stating that no one should have the right to "invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids." He promised to combat cyber threats and urged Congress "to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children's information." (Side note: This past week, Illinois passed a law that allowed schools and universities to request a student's social media password.)
The President also conveyed some trademark words of hope, stressing that his goals would help "hardworking families make ends meet." Ultimately, he said, "I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids."
Image: President Obama giving the 2015 State of the Union Address at the White House via the official White House Twitter account