Moms Depend on PBS -- Why Is It on the Chopping Block?

Big Bird on benchReuters/Shannon StapletonThe White House is busy trying to make excuses for deep cuts proposed in the president's federal budget plan, but budget director Mick Mulvaney seems to have forgotten his target audience. Mulvaney showed up on Morning Joe to defend the president's plan to slash federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- aka the folks who bring American kids Sesame Street -- with a claim that "a single mom in Detroit" or a "coal miner in West Virginia" shouldn't have to pay for the service.


Mulvaney says the government will ask that single mom and coal miner to pay for the defense budget instead.

With all due respect to our troops (that cannot be stressed enough -- our troops deserve unending thanks), is this really an either/or proposition? We can fund defense and give kids Elmo, too, as we've done for years.

Besides, who exactly does the White House think takes advantage of federally funded offerings like Sesame Street if not the single mom in Detroit or the coal miner in West Virginia? 

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It's the very fact that they're federally funded, and thus free to the public, that has made Elmo, Cookie Monster, and the gang so vital to so many young kids in America. That is why many people were shocked when HBO purchased the rights to new Sesame Street episodes, making families without a subscription wait months for new episodes to appear on PBS.

PBS estimates 1.8 million Americans are registered on its PBS Learning Media site. The organization provides more than 100,000 educational tools to American teachers. And then there's the programming itself, watched by 200 million people a year, including moms, dads, and kids.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)'s screen time recommendations point directly to PBS programming for its educational value. And one study out of the University of Maryland actually found Sesame Street in particular has enabled kids to stay on the grade level that's typical for their age, and that advantage was particularly noted in children who grow up in disadvantaged areas, kids whose parents are less likely to be able to afford extra educational materials for their toddlers. The 2015 study said the effects of Sesame Street are so powerful, they're actually on par with sending a child to preschool.

While we're certainly not advocating TV replace preschool, the latter isn't attainable for everyone. Quality educational TV has value, and it's not easy to find. And the AAP itself points out that Sesame Street makes a good supplement for toddler education.

For comparison's sake, sending a child to preschool can cost anywhere from $4,460 to $13,158 per year ($372 to $1,100 monthly), according to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.

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So how much does that single mom in Detroit or the West Virginia coal miner spend on PBS? Just $1.35 a year.

That's the cost per American citizen to keep Sesame Street reruns and other kid favorites, like Caillou, Arthur, and Maya & Miguel, on the air. That's it!

For every $100 in federal spending, PBS gets just 1 cent.

Under the president's plan, that number would go away entirely -- the White House plan will increase military spending by $54 billion while it eliminates funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and slashes the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Oh, and yes, those budgets all provide jobs for average Americans that will be slashed too.

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Unfortunately, Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, says there really is no way to make up for a cut like this. Per a statement from Harrison's office:

There is no viable substitute for federal funding that ensures Americans have universal access to public media's educational and informational programming and services. The elimination of federal funding to CPB would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media's role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions -- for Americans in both rural and urban communities.

Times are tough. But for $1.35 a year, is it really worth it to take away something that has such a positive impact on so many American families, regardless of their income bracket or even whether they have kids (ahem, PBS NewsHour is for all!)?

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