Each year United Way of Central Iowa works with legislators, communities, programs and leaders across the state to establish mission-driven public policy goals and priorities to achieve systemic changes. See how we did in our efforts during the 2015-16 legislative session.

Download the 2017 Advocacy Scorecard

Increase the percentage of central Iowa students who graduate from high school to 95 percent by 2020. United Way of Central Iowa supports policies to increase the number of children reading proficiently by the end of third grade, including support for summer learning and literacy programs for all at-risk students and investment for the expansion of the Iowa Reading Corps.

  • Summer Reading: The Legislature postponed the implementation of the Summer Reading Program to the summer of 2018; the Legislature did not put funding toward this program despite United Way of Central Iowa’s efforts. The Summer Reading Program, now delayed, requires school districts to provide an intensive summer reading program for any student between their third and fourth grade year who exhibits a substantial deficiency in reading. Governor Branstad signed into law.

  • Smarter Balanced Assessment: The Legislature passed language that suspends the use of the Smarter Balanced Assessment until July 1, 2017. The amendment requires the Administrative Rules Review Committee to review the State Board of Education’s rule at its December 2016 meeting. United Way of Central Iowa supports the delay of Smarter Balanced for one year and supports a veto of this amendment that would strike the State Board’s recommendations. Governor Branstad signed the delay into law; he vetoed the amendment and gave authority back to the Department of Education.

  • Educational Savings Plan Trust: This bill allows Iowa nonprofits to open college savings accounts for individual beneficiaries and make contributions for the future payment of higher-education costs for these beneficiaries. Governor Branstad signed into law.


Increase the percentage of central Iowans who are financially self-sufficient to 75 percent by 2020. United Way of Central Iowa advocates for policies that enable Iowans to obtain and sustain employment. United Way supports investment in new solutions to help working parents pay for child care as their income climbs, public-private partnerships to fund transportation solutions, and policies outlined in the Skills2Compete report that create a skilled workforce.

  • Child Care Assistance Changes Through Child Care Development Block Grant (non-legislative): On July 1, 2016, several positive changes will go into effect that help low-income working families enrolled in Child Care Assistance (CCA): 1) Increase eligibility from six to 12 months. 2) Provide 12 months of additional CCA coverage when a family’s income exceeds the program limit (cliff effect). 3) Allow a three-month job search for families. 4) Allow families to remain eligible for CCA when there is a temporary change in work/education during the 12-month certification period.

  • Continued Investment in Adult Basic Education and Supportive Programs: The Legislature will continue to invest a total of $12.5 million for adult basic education, workforce navigators, sector partnerships and apprenticeships. Governor Branstad signed into law. Non-legislative win: United Way of Central Iowa will lead a work group with the Department of Education to determine alternative pathways for earning a high school equivalency diploma.

  • Career and Technical Education (CTE): This bill will modernize Iowa’s CTE programs and codify many of the recommendations of the CTE Task Force. The goal is to close the skills gap and assist high school students seeking a technical career. High schools and community colleges will play a key role in implementing the initiatives. Governor Branstad signed into law.

  • Refugee Rebuild, Integrate, Serve, Empower (RefugeeRISE) AmeriCorps Program: $300,000 was appropriated to the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service, in collaboration with the Department of Human Services (DHS), to improve the economic well-being and health of economically disadvantaged refugees in Iowa. Governor Branstad signed into law.

  • Iowa Emergency Food Purchase Program: $100,000 was appropriated to the Iowa Food Bank Association—contingent upon a dollar-for-dollar private match—for food purchase and distribution to food-insecure families and individuals. Governor Branstad signed into law.

  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Bill: This bill requires Iowa Workforce Development and other state agencies to develop a four-year comprehensive workforce plan. Governor Branstad signed into law.


Increase the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index score to 64.5 by 2020.
United Way of Central Iowa advocates for a comprehensive approach to mental health and access to quality services for all Iowans, as well as taking steps to create a children’s mental health system.

  • First Five Program: An increase of $976,231 was provided for the First Five Program. The goal of this program is to ensure the healthy mental development of young children. This is significant new money for a very key, successful initiative. Governor Branstad signed into law.

  • Children’s Mental Health: $300,000 was appropriated to DHS for contracting for two planning grants for the development and implementation of children’s mental health crisis services. Governor Branstad signed into law.

  • Children’s Mental Health and Well-Being Advisory Committee: Continues the efforts of the Children’s Mental Health and Well-Being work group. The advisory committee and DHS will guide the implementation of the work group’s recommendations. Governor Branstad signed into law.

  • Mental Health Funding Formula: Extends the current county-based mental health funding formula for one additional year. Does not make adjustments to the cap, despite significant education by United Way of Central Iowa and other
    advocacy groups. Governor Branstad signed into law.

  • Polk County/Eastern Iowa Mental Health Region: Polk County Mental Health Region was appropriated $2.5 million, and the Eastern Iowa Mental Health Region was awarded $500,000 as a temporary measure to help with the region’s funding shortage. The legislation requires the regions to work with DHS to complete a three-year sustainable cash-flow funding plan for the delivery of mental health and disability services. Governor Branstad signed into law.
Sarah Ramsey

About The Author: Sarah Ramsey

Sarah Ramsey is the former Advocacy Officer for United Way of Central Iowa.