April 16, 2024

Jess Piper: Defunding Schools — Rolling Back Child Labor Laws and Reproductive Rights

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Jess Piper has been an active voice for public education in Missouri. In this post, she connects the dots between defunding education and putting children to work.

Missouri is considering a bill right now to ban restrictions on child labor laws. Yes, ban them.

So, what do child labor laws have to do with vouchers and defunded schools? Well, everything.

Lawmakers in 11 states have either passed or introduced laws to roll back child labor laws — a push that’s come from industry trade organizations and mostly conservative legislators as businesses scramble for low-wage workers.

In the past two years, those states have moved to extend working hours for children, eliminate work permit requirements and lower the age for teens to handle alcohol or work in hazardous industries. At the same time, there has been a 69% increase in children employed illegally by companies since 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Kids at workby Ariana FigueroaApril 7, 2023.

In Missouri, under that new Senate bill, kids as young as 14 would not need to get a special permit to go to work and the idea is to clear the way for more people to enter the workforce in Missouri — even if those people are children.

Missouri Republican lawmakers have received their mandate from their donors—pass a school voucher scheme and defund public schools in this 2024 session. For those who haven’t been paying attention, this is done with “school choice” and vouchers.

In Florida, a “career and technical education” bill would have allowed employers to hire 16- and 17-year-olds for work in roofing, in violation of federal laws that prohibit work in occupations known to be particularly dangerous for young workers.

This is happening under the guise of “education”, as they placed child labor under tech school status, in a state that has already defunded its public schools. All the while the Florida Capitol is swarming with “school choice” lobbyists vying to send taxpayer money to religious schools and even homeschools. They have successfully defunded the schools and are now working to fill dangerous positions with child labor.

In Iowa, a House bill would allow 16-year-olds to care for four infants or seven toddlers without supervision. Iowa also introduced a bill to allow minors as young as 14 to obtain a special driver’s license to drive up to 25 miles to or from work without an adult in the vehicle despite data showing Iowa having the highest share of young driver fatalities.

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