Ken Plum: The Milk Party
I have not endorsed any political or social movements coming out of the state of Florida in many years, but I have just learned of one that I can enthusiastically support: the Milk Party movement. I first learned about the Milk Party from an article by John Morgan, executive director of Voices for Virginia’s Children, in its fall newsletter (www.vakids.org). The Milk Party movement in Florida is being led by David Lawrence, retired publisher of the Miami Herald and nationally recognized leader in child advocacy.
Approaching social problems like the businessperson that he is and like the people who join him in his efforts, David Lawrence is spearheading “The Children’s Movement of Florida” which has as its objective “to make the well-being and education of our infants, toddlers and all other children Florida’s highest priority, especially when it comes to investing public resources (www.childrensmovementflorida.org).”
Lawrence’s pro-children movement got dubbed the “Milk Party” in part because of the techniques he has used to draw attention to the needs. During a four-week period in September he took his advocacy on the road with major “Milk Party” rallies in 17 Florida cities gaining more than 70,000 signatures of supporters and major coverage in all the news outlets. Hopefully his effort will move right up the coast and into Virginia at some point.
While major political party leaders debate budgets and spending, Milk Party advocates propose investments of government resources in our young children as offering the highest rates of return. There are numerous studies that indicate that expenditures for high quality child care, preschool education, and children’s health and mental health programs can produce returns of ten to one in future savings. Children who go to school healthy and ready to learn are much more likely to be successful in school and work and much less likely to be in social service, welfare, or prison programs in the future. The Milk Party folks say that a few public dollars spent wisely early in a child’s life will save many times over the tax dollars he or she may need in the future without the early investment. Programs like child health care coverage, early childhood/school readiness initiatives, screening and early treatment service for children with special needs, support and education for parents, and mentoring programs for at-risk school age children are what the Milk Party is about. We need a chapter of the Milk Party in Virginia to work with Voices for Virginia’s Children.
Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.