Robert Rector, a Heritage Foundation fellow who played a role in the federal welfare reforms of 1996, will be a featured speaker at upcoming forums on childhood poverty being staged by the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback.
Rob Siedlecki, secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, will host the forums scheduled next week in Kansas City, Wichita and Garden City.
Rector, author of the 1995 book "America's Failed $5.4 Trillon War on Poverty," has been a critic of the way the U.S. Census Bureau measures and enumerates poverty, claiming it distorts how Americans perceive the problem.
In a recent article in National Review, he took aim at the census figures, writing, "How do the poor live? For starters, a poor child in America is far more likely to have a widescreen plasma television, cable or satellite TV, a computer and an Xbox or TiVo in his home than he is to be hungry."
Rector argued that far fewer people experience the hardships of hunger and homelessness — true poverty — than the census estimates would lead the general public to believe.
Rector, like Siedlecki, also is a leading proponent of abstinence-only sex education. Siedlecki, a former senior counsel for the U.S. Justice Department Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives during the administration of President George W. Bush, has served on the board of directors of the Abstinence Clearinghouse and as a member of the organization's speakers' bureau. The clearinghouse provides a network for people who support abstinence education.
When Brownback campaigned for governor, he said one of his five main goals in office would be to reduce childhood poverty.
The title of the upcoming forums is “Rising to the Challenge: Reducing Childhood Poverty and Improving Childhood Outcomes in Kansas.”
Rector is scheduled to speak at the meetings in Kansas City and Wichita, which also will feature some Kansas speakers.
Another outside speaker, Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, will be featured at the Garden City event. Haskins is co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families and a consultant for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. A former Republican staffer to the U.S. House, Haskins also advised then-President Bush on welfare policy in 2002. He co-edited the 2002 book "Welfare Reform and Beyond: The Future of the Safety Net."
The event times and locations are:
• 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday at Jack Reardon Convention Center, 500 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, Kan. The Rev. Barry Feaker of Topeka Rescue Mission also will speak.
• 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Drury Hotel, 400 W. Douglas Ave., Wichita. David Sanford, chief executive of GraceMed Health Clinic, a safety-net clinic, also will speak.
• 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Thursday at Garden City Community College's Dennis Perryman Athletic Complex, 801 Campus Drive, Garden City. Robert Deleon, director of the Salvation Army in Garden City, also is scheduled to speak.
The forums are free and open to the public. But those interested in attending are asked to register in advance at www.srs.ks.gov.