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Promises to Keep: The Continuing Crisis In the Education of Migrant Children

National Child Labor Committee 145 East 32nd Street New York, New York 10016

National Child Labor Committee

The National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) is a national private, nonprofit organization founded in 1904 and chartered by an Act of Congress in 1907, to fight against the exploitation of children in industry and agriculture and for free public education. In 1959 it organized the National Committee on Employment of Youth (NCLC's Youth Employment Division) when it became clear that an increasing proportion of young people of employment age were experiencing serious problems in making the transition from school to work. This division concentrates exclusively on the difficulties youth face in preparing for, finding and adjusting to employ. ment.

For more than fifteen years, NCLC has been actively involved in the conception and development of innovative programs in youth employment, including the Neighborhood Youth Corps, summer youth employment programs, and the upgrading of paraprofessional workers in Early Childhood Education, Occupational Therapy, and Addiction Services, among others. The agency is a constant advocate for youth in the employment field, testifying before Federal and state legislatures, conducting conferences, instituting studies, issuing reports and publications-including its quarterly, New Generation-and providing consulting and coordinating services to communities and organizations. The agency also has a full program devoted to the education of the children of migrant farmworkers.

NCLC is run by a Board of Trustees, including citizens of all ages from business, labor, education, and the voluntary sector.

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Agriculture is the last big business in the nation in which children are a substantial part of the work force. These children form the last remnant of what used to be a severe child labor problem in America-a problem that the National Child Labor Committee was formed to combat.

Since 1904, the Committee has been an advocate for children, campaigning to protect young people from work-related abuse and deprivation. In the early days of the Committee, field studies were conducted in almost every state and with almost every crop, pinpointing the dangers to children's safety, health, and education, with particular emphasis on the children of migrant farm workers. Children who work in the fields sacrifice their futures both physically and intellectually: as adults they will not be able to compete in any area except migrant farm work, where the demand for workers is slowly decreasing.

The key is education, but these children have been systematically denied their right to equal educational opportunity. The fact that they were the most educationally deprived children in the nation prompted Congress, in 1966, to amend Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to include programs and services directed specifically at meeting the special educational needs of children of migrant farm workers.

As with all laws, those relating to migrant education are easier to pass than to enforce: failures and abuses are widespread and largely uncorrected. In far too many instances, both the technical content and the spirit of the law are being ignored or subverted. A lack of responsible leadership is reflected at every level of the Migrant Education Program, where malfeasance is unchecked, good programs receive no reinforcement, poorly run programs are renewed year after year, and children remain unserved.

The National Child Labor Committee has spoken out on this issue before. Our 1969 report, Wednesday's Children, the first major study of the Migrant Education Program, exposed widespread failures and led to further inquiries by other responsible groups. But even as reports and audits and investigations reveal the program's inadequacies, the inadequacies continue. The passage of the Migrant Education section of ESEA Title I established a direction that must now be pushed to its logical conclusion-it must become possible for the laws to work. This report is addressed to those directly involved in providing equal educational opportunity to all our children, and to the Congress, which must take responsibility for seeing its own mandate carried out.

We are deeply grateful to the Public Welfare Foundation of Washington, D.C., which provided a large share of the funds necessary for NCLC's re


search and for publication of this report. Space does not permit recognition of all those who gave their time and suggestions in the planning, investigation, and writing of Promises to Keep, but we wish to acknowledge the efforts of Attorney Miriam Daniel Guido, whose field research, investigations, and reporting uncovered many of the problem areas; Killian Jordan and Seymour Lesh of NCLC's staff; Joel Seldin who helped organize our thinking and did yeoman's work on editing a mass of material; Susan Pimentel, who did much of the necessary legal research; Karen Tobin, whose contributions to the paper were invaluable; and Henry Saltzman and Stephen Solis, whose guidance contributed greatly to the planning of this report.

Executive Director
National Child Labor Committee

New York, N.Y.
January, 1977


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