A program worthy of our investment

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April 3, 2014 | 12:48 pm

By Kim Reynolds and Paul A. Gregoire

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With Iowa still feeling the negative impact of the Great Recession, many of the state’s policy makers 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 that 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 proved that children from families participating in properly implemented voluntary home visiting programs are less likely to be victims of child abuse or neglect, or be involved in crime later in life.

They also do better in school. One study showed these children were 56 percent more likely to graduate from high school.

Ensuring Iowa’s long-term economic vitality depends on two important factors: building a 21st-century workforce 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 when infants and toddlers are forming relationships with their parents.

Voluntary home visiting helps at-risk children be better prepared for school. These programs also show concrete data for their return on investment. To keep our costs low, we must put our scarce state resources toward programs that prove their effectiveness.

Working 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 government dollars are scarce, it is more important than ever that the state invests in programs that produce results and savings for children, families and our economy.

Kim Reynolds is Iowa’s lieutenant governor. Comments: Caitlin.oponski@iowa.gov

Paul A. Gregoire is a member of the Iowa Association of Business & Industry Board of Directors, and Vice President of Emerson/Fisher Controls. Comments: Paul.

Gregoire@emerson.com

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