SOURCE: Council for a Strong America

Council for a Strong America

September 13, 2016 10:00 ET

New 50-State Index From Council for a Strong America Shows Most Young Adults Not "Citizen-Ready"

Crime and Inability to Join Military or Workforce Present National Crisis

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - September 13, 2016) - America's strength depends on workforce-ready, law abiding men and women who are able to defend our nation. Unfortunately, a new report shows the majority of America's young adults fail to meet at least one of these indicators. Across the nation, more than three-fourths of the states (39 states) earned a grade of C or worse based on the percentage of young adults who miss the mark. The new Citizen-Ready Index shows:

  • More than 25 percent of young adults have an arrest record;
  • Approximately 1 in 7 young adults aged 16 to 24 are neither employed nor in school;
  • More than 70 percent of those between the ages of 17 and 24 cannot qualify for military service due to problems with obesity, education, drug abuse or crime.

See the report and state-by-state rankings.

The report "2016 Citizen-Readiness Index" -- was released today by Council for a Strong America (the Council), a national, bipartisan, nonprofit uniting organizations comprised of five pillars of society that promote solutions to challenges that prevent Americans from being citizen-ready.

Council for a Strong America's 8,500 members of five organizations are: law enforcement leaders, retired admirals and generals, business executives, pastors, and prominent coaches and athletes.

Listen to the concerns of the Council's members.

Released during a Capitol Hill Briefing moderated by former ABC News Capitol Hill Correspondent John Cochran, the "2016 Citizen-Readiness Index" Report reveals how each of the 50 states ranks in the number of young adults who fail to meet the Citizen-Ready criteria (with Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and Tennessee earning a grade of "E" based on collective indicators and Hawaii, Massachusetts and Vermont earning "A"s).

The report also recommends specific policies that must be advanced by the next President and Congress as first steps toward solutions.

"This report is a stark and accurate assessment of citizen-readiness, and it's cause for concern for everyone who wants this nation to succeed," said Rear Admiral (Ret.) Robert Besal, U.S. Navy, and member of Mission: Readiness. "Young adults who are physically unfit, involved in the criminal justice system or unprepared for productive employment or military service represent a staggering loss of individual potential and collective strength for the nation as well."

Admiral Besal released the report alongside fellow Mission: Readiness member Rear Admiral (Ret.) Eleanor Valentin, U.S. Navy, Wyandotte County (Kansas) Sheriff Don Ash, Cushman and Wakefield CEO Larry Jensen, Columbus, Ohio Church of the Nazarene Pastor Mark Fuller, and Olympic gold medalist Summer Sanders.

Representing more than 8,500 members of the five Council for a Strong America organizations, the panelists recommended policy solutions to address our nation's shortfalls in the Citizen-Readiness Index:

  • STRONG FAMILIES, which must be supported in 2017 through Congressional reauthorization of the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, which has been endorsed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and championed by Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

"Voluntary home visiting programs lift hearts and minds by giving young, inexperienced moms and dads a chance to form important bonds with nurses or other trained mentors who help them deal with stressful parenting situations," said Pastor Mark Fuller, a member of Shepherding the Next Generation. "The biblical basis for this work is strong, and the cause is urgent, because 23 percent of U.S. children have experienced traumatic events, which can make them more likely to abuse drugs or commit crimes later in life."

  • QUALITY EARLY EDUCATION, which must be fostered through continued support of Preschool Development Grants that enable states to create high quality early learning, and by reauthorizing and improving the Head Start program.

These programs have always earned strong bipartisan support at the federal and state levels, including from Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). In the 2015-16 budget year 32 states -- 22 with Republican governors and 10 with Democratic governors -- increased funding for preschool.

"When it comes to education, the business leaders I work with in Memphis have a saying -- 'you can't build the roof if you haven't built the foundation,'" said Larry Jensen, a member of ReadyNation. "That's because there's almost nothing more important for long-term achievement than ensuring kids are ready-to-learn when they start school. If you don't believe me, look at the research, which shows participation in high-quality preschool can boost high school graduation rates among children from low-income families by 30 to 50 percent."

  • HEALTHIER SCHOOLS, which will be supported by reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act, which maintains healthy school meal standards, and restoring physical education programs in public schools across the nation.

A bipartisan Senate bill, championed by U.S. Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), upholds the integrity of standards put in place by the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), while offering schools some needed flexibility in meeting the standards.

"Yes it's great to know Americans are top-ranked when it comes to winning Olympic medals, but that doesn't make up for the fact that 60 percent of our young adults are overweight or obese," said Summer Sanders, a member of Champions for America's Future. "Step one for solving the problem is convincing parents to ensure their kids eat right and stay fit, but step two is making sure schools are reinforcing those lessons since this is where a lot of kids consume up to 50 percent of their daily calories. A healthy school lunch and at least 60 minutes of physical activity will give kids the staying power to be fit for life."

"As our kids head back to school and our lawmakers head back to work, we have every confidence that acting on these recommendations today will ensure more people are crime-free and prepared to be productive citizens in the years to come," said Sheriff Ash, a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, who is among nearly 50 Council members who are meeting with members of Congress on September 13 following the release of the report.

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