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SELIGMAN

Aaron Seligman with his daughter, Mara Crespo

For the fourth year, Cap Times reporters have asked several Madisonians to share "bright ideas" they have for the coming year. We will publish the 2017 edition of Bright Ideas throughout the next week.

I became a parent in 2016. Our daughter is wonderful. But being a parent has challenges, beyond the sleep deprivation clichés. My wife and I needed more paid time off and less expensive day care. We were fortunate to attend a new parent class, but were still overwhelmed figuring out the basics — toys and equipment we’d need and how to set up a nursery.

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We can increase opportunities for all Madison kids. But discussions of broader issues often resemble ours as new parents. At a nonprofit focused on increasing educator voices in policy issues (and through community involvement), I had hundreds of conversations with teachers, policymakers and community leaders about the challenges they face. I heard about many issues that go beyond a classroom teacher’s time or control. For example: teacher retention, unmet student mental health needs and unstable funding or accountability measures.

I know that given our current politics and busy personal lives it’s tempting to isolate ourselves in our niche area or focus on immediate results. But if we focus only on the current crisis, we’ll never address systemic challenges. Let’s use our direct and program experience to inform and advocate collectively for policies that get to the root causes of our challenges. Providing universal access to parenting classes, expanding affordable, quality early childhood education and mandating paid family leave would be great places to start