As our communities continue to recover from a difficult year and we focus on how to strengthen our local economies, there has rightly been a lot of discussion about job creation, infrastructure investments and supporting our workers. But perhaps the best way we can support the success of our state in the long term is to also focus on those who will be the foundation of it in the decades to come: our children.
If we invest in the success of Iowa’s kids and their families, they’ll in turn be ready to be the future entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders we need them to be.
That investment starts with ensuring that no child in Iowa grows up without food on their table, a roof over their head or the support they need to grow.
Starting next month, the families of more than 85% of the children living in Iowa’s Third Congressional District will start receiving Child Tax Credit payments of up to $300 a month to support them as they raise their kids — a lifeline I helped get signed into law earlier this year.
The Child Tax Credit is expected to help more than 51,800 households in central and southwest Iowa and to lift 5,100 children out of poverty — all made possible by changes we made to ensure the lowest-income Iowans and their children can fully benefit from this support.
Families with children under 6 can get $3,600 per year to help pay for additional expenses, and this larger benefit will help raise at least 2,200 of these youngest Iowans out of poverty.
In all, more than 600,000 children will benefit from the Child Tax Credit, which will help their families cover the costs of food, rent, child care and all the other expenses they’re navigating.
I’m proud of my vote to provide these benefits, and I’ll be fighting to make this expansion permanent to ensure this critical lifeline for American families is always there to support them.
While this benefit is helping children at home, I’m also focused on supporting their academic success from a young age — starting with ensuring that every student in Iowa has access to a full-day kindergarten program.
Fighting for all-day kindergarten isn’t new to me.
Years ago, when my oldest son was set to start kindergarten, I learned there was a lottery system in West Des Moines that determined which children could attend full-day kindergarten.
I spent the next year working with the school board to extend full-day kindergarten to every child in West Des Moines.
But 40% of students still don’t have access to full-day kindergarten even though studies have shown that a full day of instruction puts students on a path to greater achievement in math, reading and social skills.
I’m proud to be co-leading legislation that would help expand full-day kindergarten nationwide.
I’m also supportive of President Biden’s proposal to invest in universal pre-K education through the American Families Plan.
Studies have shown that every dollar we invest in early childhood education pays upwards of eight dollars in economic returns for that student and our communities down the road.
Children who attend a pre-K program and full-day kindergarten also have a higher likelihood of graduating from high school. Their job placement rates are better once they’re out of school, and they earn more over their lifetimes.
I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of expanding educational opportunities here in Iowa, and in Congress I’m sharing those stories to encourage my colleagues to move forward on these investments.
Creating good-paying jobs and expanding industry in Iowa won’t be enough to guarantee our future prosperity. If we invest in these children and their success now, we’re ensuring that Iowa’s next decades will be full of smart, strong and dedicated Iowans who are ready to give back to the communities that helped raise them.
In Iowa, our success is often a function of the things that we grow to share with the world.
Whether it’s direct benefits for their families or more resources for them to get a good education, these investments will cultivate the best crop our state has to offer: the strong and talented Iowans of our future.
Rep. Cindy Axne of West Des Moines represents Iowa’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She can be reached at 202-225-5476.