Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders provides insight on her plan for prosperity on 'The Story.'NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!
As parents of four, few things matter more to my wife and me than encouraging our children to learn the skills and responsibilities that come with work. Our oldest are 15 and 11, and we’re constantly trying to impress upon them the value of a dollar earned, how to budget and give generously, and the difference between needs and wants. Those lessons are easier to pick up in that all-important first job during high school.
Our leaders in Arkansas want to help. On March 8, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a law repealing our youth-permitting system. Before, teenagers younger than 16 had to ask state authorities for permission to get a summer or weekend job. The process required filling out a form, getting signatures from parents and businesses, mailing it to the Department of Labor and Licensing, and waiting for approval from Little Rock. Now that barrier is broken, even as Arkansas still limits how many hours teenagers can work and federal child labor laws are still in effect.
But that’s not how the mainstream media and coastal liberals characterize it. Out-of-state elites have savaged Arkansas for empowering teenagers to work part-time.
Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted, "gotta admit, loosening child labor laws was not on my top 10 list for our CA legislative session this year." (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
"Arkansas Gov. Sanders signs law loosening child labor protections," blared the Washington Post, while MSNBC declared that Republicans want to "make child labor great again." California Gov. Gavin Newsom jumped in, tweeting "gotta admit, loosening child labor laws was not on my top 10 list for our CA legislative session this year."
GOV. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS TAKES ON CRITICS OF EDUCATION REFORM PLAN: OUR KIDS ARE IN A ‘BROKEN SYSTEM’
Gov. Sanders stands accused of doing the bidding of big business, putting profits ahead of children’s education and development. Worse, prominent influencers are circulating misleading pictures of her signing a bill next to pre-teen children, falsely alleging that it’s this reform. Others are linking the policy to stories about illegally employed young kids – hired in violation of the state’s requirements – or deceitfully accusing Gov. Sanders of wanting to get minority children working in meat-packing plants. With states like Iowa considering reforms of their own, it’s a safe bet that liberals will spend the next two years falsely painting Republicans as a danger to children’s well-being, if not their survival.Video
These partisan attacks have no resemblance to reality. We’re not talking about sending junior to work the graveyard shift at the factory Sunday through Saturday. We’re talking about bussing tables a couple nights a week after school, working the check-out counter on weekends, and staying busy during summer. Besides, the main push for this reform didn’t come from big business. It came from families like mine, who want more of the freedom that lets our children flourish. We are not a state that values perpetual adolescence and government control. We are a state that thinks families know best and work leads to better lives.
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It harms teenagers when you discourage them from learning through work. Teens who work as little as one year will, in their 20s, have incomes that are 14-16% higher on average. Teenage work also leads to less property crime and drug use and higher graduation rates. Keeping a schedule, collaborating with others, discovering your skills and your shortcomings – these lessons complement what you learn in the classroom. When it comes to preparing teenagers for adulthood, the informal training of work strengthens formal education.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders unveils an education bill at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Feb. 8, 2023. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Besides, who’s really holding back teenagers? About two-thirds of the country has youth-permitting regimes that give state bureaucrats or schools control over teenagers’ ability to get jobs. That includes Newsom’s California, where schools have final say in issuing work permits. In 2021, barely a quarter of 16- to 19-year-old Californians worked, nearly 10 percentage points lower than the national average. Why isn’t Newsom attacking his neighbors in Oregon, which doesn’t require youth permits either?
Nationwide, only 36% of teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 participated in the labor force at the end of 2021, down from almost 60% in the 1970s. Can anyone honestly say that American teenagers are more responsible and well-rounded now than they were 50 years ago? Does anyone really believe most teenagers are better prepared for the rigors of adult life?
Gov. Gavin Newsom heads to a press conference in Half Moon Bay, California, on Jan. 24, 2023. (Dai Sugano/MediaNews Group/East Bay Times via Getty Images)
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States should be doing everything they can to prepare teens for lives of meaning and contribution, including through that first weekend or summer job. It’s no coincidence that the two states with the highest teenage labor force participation rates – Kansas and Utah – don’t require youth work permits. These states aren’t the business lackey caricature of the left. They’re pro-family and pro-freedom, and their economies are stronger for it. So are more of their teenagers, who are these states’ future.
Arkansas is now set to prove this truth once again. As a parent, I couldn’t be more proud of my state, and I know we’re doing the bidding of families, not business. Teenagers like mine will find it easier to find short-term or part-time work – and the fulfillment and growth that come with it. My only question is why California’s governor doesn’t want more of his state’s teenagers to rise and thrive.
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