Ragan Report

• Student poverty increases classroom needs

     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. In fact, 41 percent of students in Iowa schools live in poverty and are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

     Schools with a large number of students from low-income families send fewer graduates to college than schools with high-income families, according to a new study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Schools with more than half of their students in poverty also saw more of their students drop out of college than did higher-income schools.

     We must do more to help students from low-income families. One idea is to provide schools with an extra $250 for each student who qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches (SSB 3160). This amounts to less than 10 percent additional funding for these Iowa students. The national average is an additional 29 percent. Schools use the money to boost student achievement among low-income students through before and after-school education programs, summer school, intensive tutoring, mentoring and more.

 

• Protecting seniors from abuse and exploitation

     Thousands of older Americans are abused, neglected and exploited every year in the U.S. Many victims are particularly vulnerable, depending on others to help them with the most basic activities of daily living.

     In 2001, Iowa implemented an Elder Abuse Initiative in 22 counties to focus on prevention, intervention, detection and reporting of elder abuse. Between 2007 and 2011, the initiative received almost 12,000 referrals of potential elder abuse, 44 percent concerned financial exploitation.

     With the demonstrated need, we must strengthen efforts to help vulnerable seniors throughout the state. SF 2117creates an Elder Abuse Resource & Referral Program to work with area agencies on aging to increase awareness of elder abuse and to provide help.

     SF 2168will specifically address financial exploitation of Iowa seniors, which often occurs at the hands of family members or caretakers. Many seniors give a “power of attorney” to someone they trust so that person can make financial decisions on their behalf, including managing their money, paying their bills and purchasing necessities.

     Power of attorney is exercised responsibly among most Iowans. Unfortunately, there is growing evidence of unethical people who prey on vulnerable seniors, stealing from them and abusing their power. Based on recommendations of Iowa's Elder Abuse Task Force, the Senate Judiciary Committee developed an “Iowa Uniform Power of Attorney Act” to address the problem. SF 2168will help prevent and detect power of attorney abuse.

     Our seniors deserve respect and dignity. These are two steps toward protecting some of Iowa's most vulnerable citizens.