Katherine Eudaly grew up on public television and radio. Now, at age 10, the Lawrence fourth-grader has started a petition that she hopes will convince legislators to continue funding public media — and her beloved “Sesame Street” — for years to come.
Katherine’s mother, Karen Willey, said her daughter launched the campaign after hearing of President Donald Trump’s recently unveiled 2019 budget proposal. Like the 2018 budget before it, Trump’s newest plan calls for the elimination of federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funds for PBS and National Public Radio stations.
That plan obviously didn’t sit well with Katherine, whose family TV carries just one channel: the local PBS station.
“It’s nice not having to pay for radio and television,” Katherine says. “On PBS, they don’t have ads, and the kids’ shows and some of the adult shows, like ‘Nature’ programs, are actually educational.”
Over the last three days, Katherine has collected roughly 160 signatures from her classmates at Raintree Montessori School, each pledging their support for public media. She’s visited each classroom and presented her ideas to students and teachers, sometimes collecting signatures on the spot and sometimes leaving a clipboard behind for the kids who might want to mull the decision over first.
She’s also learned not everybody is familiar with public media and how it’s funded. Katherine says she’s learned to be patient in explaining her position and accepting differing opinions. She’s even encouraged classmates who disagree with her to write letters of their own.
Willey says her daughter has “always” had an interest in civic engagement. It was Willey's suggestion that Katherine write to legislators in the wake of last month’s federal budget proposal. Everything else, Willey says, has been completely, 100 percent Katherine’s doing.
“She’s just taken it and ran with it,” Willey says. “It’s been really cute to see.”
“What she told me after she was involved with this was, she said, ‘I feel like I have a voice, and I feel like it’s important and I can have an impact on our whole country,’” Willey added. “It’s been really empowering for her.”
Katherine hopes to send her signatures — along with handwritten letters to Rep. Lynn Jenkins, Sen. Pat Roberts and Sen. Jerry Moran — off to Washington, D.C., by the end of Thursday.
“I’m at least hoping that maybe they’ll think about voting to continue funding,” Katherine says of her goal for the petition.
She thinks kids have ideas and opinions worth listening to. Adults, Katherine says, could learn something from listening to the children in their lives.
“Usually it’s the grownups voting and the grownups deciding, but sometimes kids actually have a good point with something,” she says.