With Iowa still feeling the negative impact of the Great Recession, many of the state's policymakers and business leaders rank increasing Iowa's competitive business climate as a top priority. We know if we bolster our commitment to education, reinforce our long term workforce development, and control our tax burden by using scarce resources wisely, Iowa will be well positioned to compete in the global marketplace.
Some might think these goals can be achieved independent of one another. The reality is that reaching them requires that we see how they are related. One state program which we both support, voluntary home visiting, serves as a perfect example of this interconnection.
Iowa's voluntary home visiting programs pair at-risk families with trained professionals who share vital information and support to parents before birth and during a child's first years of life. The voluntary nature of these programs is critical, helping provide at-risk families who want support the tools they need to succeed.
Decades of research have proven that children from families participating in properly implemented voluntary home visiting programs are less likely to be victims of child abuse or neglect, to be involved in crime later in life, and they do better in school.
One study showed these children were 56 percent more likely to graduate from high school, a key fact given we now live in a world when how much you earn is increasingly dependent on how much you learn.
The foundation of many skills children need for success is established in the earliest years of life. And it is at this critical juncture that our state's economic future takes shape, as well.
Iowa Home Visiting Campaign Policy Highlights
Iowa promotes voluntary home visiting and group-based parent education and support programs that target families with children 0-5 as a strategy to:
1. Improve birth outcomes;
2. Improve parental knowledge, engagement and the home learning environment;
3. Improve family economic success; and
4. To prevent child maltreatment in order to ensure children are safe, healthy, ready for school and prepared to enter the work force.
The Iowa Home Visiting Campaign has a goal of ensuring state general funds used to fund home visiting and family support programs are expended on programs that are "promising" or "evidenced-based" programs. This will ensure that scarce state resources are used for their highest and best purposes.
This goal will be accomplished by July 1st, 2016, and will be phased in:
By July 1, 2013, 25 percent of the funds expended for family support services are for promising or evidenced-based program models.
By July 1, 2014, 50 percent of the funds expended for family support services are for promising or evidenced-based program models.
By July 1, 2015, 75 percent of the funds expended for family support services are for promising or evidenced-based p models.
By July 1, 2016, 90 percent of the funds expended for family support services are for promising or evidence-based practice models.
The remaining 10 percent of funds may be used for innovative program models that do not yet meet the definition of promising or evidence-based programs.
By using this phased in approach, Iowa's strong history of local control will be honored, as well as providing for new and innovative programs that stem from local best practices.
Drawing upon Iowa's research and educational community, important benchmarks will be established to ensure program success, provide technical assistance, and to increase program performance.
The purposes and goals of our campaign have wide appeal and support among leading Iowa companies, associations, and organizations.
Our Iowa Home Visiting Campaign members:
Blank Children's Hospital
Every Child Counts
Iowa Association of Business & Industry
Iowa Chamber of Commerce Executives
Iowa Community Action Association
Iowa Head Start Association
Iowa Health Systems
Mercy Health Network
Prevent Child Abuse Iowa
Principal Financial Group
Safe Kids Iowa
Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa
Ensuring Iowa's long-term economic vitality depends on two important factors: building a 21st century work force to compete globally and controlling our tax burden.
Business people across Iowa regularly encounter job applicants and employees who are lacking fundamental skills such as problem solving and the ability to work in teams. These critical skills take shape in the earliest years, when infants and toddlers are forming relationships with their parents and caregivers.
Voluntary home visiting helps at-risk children be better prepared for school, a critical element of our long term work-force development goals. These programs also show concrete data for their return on investment, which allows us to act as good stewards of taxpayer dollars by maximizing the outcomes they deliver.
To keep our costs low, we must put our scarce state resources toward programs that are able to prove their effectiveness. We should rely on research and evidence to tell us which programs provide a good return on investment and which do not.
Working in concert with the Iowa Legislature, we are supporting positive changes to strengthen Iowa's home visiting programs. These changes would direct funding to the most effective programs, strengthen standards, and improve monitoring of each program's outcomes.
These proposed legislative changes have broad bipartisan support. High-quality home visiting programs are supported by a wide array of citizen and public policy groups, from child advocacy organizations and major hospitals to the Iowa Association of Business & Industry and the National Lieutenant Governors Association.
At a time when budget priorities are being debated and dollars are scarce, it is more important than ever that the state invests in programs that produce real results and real savings for children, families, and our economy.
Kim Reynolds is Iowa's lieutenant governor. Paul A. Gregoire is a member of the Iowa Association of Business & Industry board of directors and vice president of Emerson/Fisher Controls.