September 01, 2010 — Miami — The Children's Movement of Florida, in association with the University of Miami, announced Wednesday that it will host the first ever gubernatorial debate devoted exclusively to the needs of Florida's children.
The historic October 16 debate between major candidates vying to become Florida's next governor will be held at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. It will be broadcast statewide by television stations and via the Internet.
"Nothing can be more important to the people and future of Florida than the well-being and education of our children," said David Lawrence Jr., co-chair of The Children's Movement of Florida, founding chair of The Children's Trust of Miami-Dade and retired publisher of The Miami Herald. "Never before have candidates for Florida's highest office engaged in a debate focused solely on the needs of our youngest, most vulnerable citizens."
Three thousand parents, children's advocates and other supporters of the Children's Movement of Florida – along with University of Miami students – will be in the audience during the debate at the University of Miami.
"I am delighted the University of Miami will host this vitally important debate," said University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala. “The welfare and education of children in this state should be one of the highest concerns of our gubernatorial candidates. The citizens of Florida deserve to hear how they plan to address critical issues affecting our most precious resource—children.”
Led by a 27-member committee of influential Floridians, the non-partisan Children's Movement of Florida also is launching a statewide, citizen-led series of "Milk Parties" on behalf of Florida's children. The sweeping series of 15 rallies will be conducted throughout Florida, beginning in Pensacola on Sept. 6 and ending in Key West on Sept. 30.
The thousands of people who participate in these Milk Parties will be asked to submit questions for the debate, share information about the debate with relatives, friends and coworkers, and organize debate-viewing parties.
The debate will focus on the first five issues to be addressed by The Children's Movement of Florida: Access to health insurance and quality health care, screening and treatment for special needs, quality pre-kindergarten opportunities, high-quality mentoring programs, as well as support and information for parents.
"Florida consistently ranks at or near the bottom in measure after measure of how we invest in our children," Lawrence said. "The time has come to change that. At stake is the economic future of our state and the stability, safety and security of the communities in which we live. The well-being and education of Florida's children must become the state's highest priority."
The panel for the debate will consist of Lawrence, former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings and Bob Butterworth, former Florida attorney general and former secretary of the state's Department of Children and Families.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink has stated her intention to participate in the Oct. 16 debate at the University of Miami and we are in discussions with Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott.
The Children's Movement of Florida is a non-partisan organization that does not endorse candidates. Its steering committee consists of 12 Republicans, 12 Democrats and three independents. This non-partisanship is reflected in the debate's panel: Butterworth is a registered Democrat; Lawrence is a registered Independent; Jennings is a registered Republican.
The Milk Parties being organized by the Children's Movement of Florida will include appearances by movement leaders, children's advocates, entertainers and local celebrities and other supporters. Refreshments will include milk and cookies. A bus called "The Children's Express" will carry the group on "The Children's Movement Road Tour" from city to city.
The objective: To educate political, business and civic leaders – and all parents in Florida – about the urgent need to improve the way we care for our children, making the well-being and education of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens Florida's highest priority.
No public funds are being used by the Children's Movement of Florida, which has raised nearly $1 million in donations from foundations and private contributors.
For information about the “Milk Party” rally scheduled for your coverage area, about the origins, objectives and leaders of The Children's Movement of Florida, and about the current state of Florida's children, please visit http://www.childrensmovementflorida.org/
Martin Merzer, Communications Director
Barbara Gutierrez, University of Miami
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