From Senator Amanda Ragan –
Iowa is one of the best states in the country to raise children. In this year’s national Kids Count survey, Iowa ranks high for economic well-being, health, and family and community. Overall, Kids Count puts Iowa #7 nationally, up a notch from last year.
What are we doing right? The number of Iowa children without health insurance has dropped dramatically as have low birth weight babies. Iowa is seeing fewer cases of child death, teen drug and alcohol abuse, and babies born to teen parents. More kids are attending preschool and graduating on time from high school.
However, the Kids Count report also shows us a couple key areas where we can improve the lives of Iowa kids.
First, the percentage of children living in poverty and in single-parent families has been on the rise since 2005. In 2011, 17 percent of Iowa children were living in poverty, and nearly a third lived in single-parent families.
Second, Iowa has slipped to 15th in education, with only a third of our fourth-graders testing proficient in reading and a third of our eighth-graders testing proficient in math.
This year, we made investments that will help tackle those problems. We committed to boosting student achievement with an increase in funding for local schools for the next two years, smaller class sizes for young learners, and education reforms to raise standards, improve teaching and encourage innovation.
We are helping low-income families work their way out of poverty by increasing the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit from 7 percent to 15 percent of the federal credit. In addition, we invested in worker training and affordable college education so parents can get the skills they need to fill good-paying jobs at local businesses.