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The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary is only the beginning of what promises to be a loud chapter in the long-running debate about U.S. education policy. Much of that debate will revolve around how to improve our poor-ranking education system. It will relate to heated discussions happening across the political spectrum, from California to Texas, about both how to educate our children and how save the least fortunate of those children from abuse and neglect.

Watch these debates closely and you will notice a strange nearsightedness. The focus will be on how to improve schooling and child welfare systems, with almost no thought given to changing how we choose to support families and the systems they move through. Imagine a future with smaller families who are able to devote more resources to each child to make sure they have access to the educational support they need. Imagine a future where the community intentionally creates programs that make sure the children they do have are able to access to tutoring, books, extracurricular support, and a college fund that families and individuals around the community can contribute to.

This is the future we want, and this is the future we see. The Fair Start modelhelps us focus on what matters most in these debates—the decision to have a child, and the decision as a community to support that child at all stages of her life. In the debates to come, policymakers should keep in mind that there are many factors at play in the process of childhood development. Want to change the system and what happens in the classroom? You have to start by looking back, well before the classroom, and planning ahead.

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