We think of education as the great equalizer, and we count on our schools to give every child a fair shot at success as an adult.
Unfortunately, some kids face bigger challenges in school than their classmates do because their families are struggling to make ends meet. The number of Iowa kids growing up in poverty is at a 50-year high, and our state's childhood poverty rate is climbing faster than the national average. At the same time, the gap in student achievement between well-off and low-income students is now double the gap between black and white students.
According to the Workshop on Poverty, Inequality & Education, if we don't reduce the growing inequality in academic performance between the rich and the poor, schools won't be the great equalizer we expect them to be. To help, we're investing in local schools to attract and retain great teachers, keep class sizes small and offer more high-quality preschools options.
South Tama County Elementary is one local school that has shown significant progress in closing gaps in student achievement, particularly when it comes to reading and math proficiency among Native American students. The school was honored recently with the Breaking Barriers to Teaching and Learning Award, which recognizes successful efforts to eliminate achievement gaps among students who face challenges.
But Iowa family incomes also need a boost. Last spring, we cut taxes on working families. We also expanded job-training efforts to prepare more parents for higher-skilled, better-paying work. These steps to increasing family incomes aren't just good for the Iowa economy today, they help our kids do their best in school-and that's good for our economy long into the future.