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Building a stronger America by ensuring that children become productive adults

Rear Admiral Bob Besal with Speaker Paul Ryan
Mission: Readiness member Rear Admiral Bob Besal, U.S. Navy (Retired), shares his perspective on military recruitment challenges with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

In 1996, a few of the nation’s top police chiefs realized that, to get to the root of our crime problem, our country needed to put more kids on a track to success in life. Today, more than 8,000 law enforcement, business, retired military, evangelical, and sports leaders are united to build a stronger nation by ensuring that children grow up to become productive adults.

Relying on research and their proven expertise, our members are working in nearly every state and in the halls of Congress to shape the debate around issues ranging from early education to healthy school foods.

In 2016, Council for a Strong America’s members met with the top leaders in Congress, state legislators in 30 states, and 10 of the presidential candidates to educate them about the importance of investments in children, youth, and families. Over the past four years, our work has generated over 300 million media impressions and appeared in every major publication in the country including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, Politico, and The Hill.

Through our work, Council for a Strong America is building:


Our members advocate for policies and programs that help struggling families get back on track and back to work, and provide stable upbringings for their children:

  • Council for a Strong America garnered critical support for early education, which helped millions of children enroll. Our work enabled nearly 9,000 additional children to enroll in early education programs in California; 10,000 children in Michigan; and 6,200 children in Pennsylvania; among others—and improved early education quality in Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, and Nebraska. In total, our members won $1.75 billion in new state investments in early childhood programs from 2014-2015, and $2.4 billion in federal investments. That included the first-ever dedicated funding for early education in the federal K-12 bill.

  • Council for a Strong America helped enable nearly 150,000 families to participate in voluntary home-visiting programs. In 2014, our members helped win renewal of the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program—a program that we helped launch in 2010. As a result, close to 150,000 families (often young, at-risk, teen moms) receive vital parent coaching that reduces the risk of child abuse and neglect.

  • Council for a Strong America helped preserve tax credits that make work pay for 8 million families. In 2015, our law enforcement leaders fought cuts to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) programs. As a result, 8 million children in working families are less likely to be in poverty and become involved in crime.

Council for a Strong America protected or increased investments in early childhood programs in 27 states in 2016

Council for a Strong America's early childhood accomplishments in 2016.
Red = States where Council for a Strong America protected or increased investments in early childhood programs.
  • California: $100 million investment in early learning and child care
  • Illinois: $79 million increase for early childhood programs
  • Louisiana: $20 million investment in pre-K
  • Mississippi: $1 million increase for pre-K, a 25% increase in funding over prior years
  • Pennsylvania: $30 million investment in pre-K and Head Start


Our members call for policies and programs that prevent crime and enable children and families to live healthy and productive lives:

  • Council for a Strong America is championing national juvenile justice system reform. Our police chiefs, sheriffs, and prosecutors and sports leaders are working to reauthorize the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), prioritizing evidence-based recidivism programs that reduce crime.

  • Council for a Strong America has helped thousands of children gain health insurance coverage. Over the past three years, our members have worked to improve healthcare for children in Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, and Utah. In Arizona, we helped reinstate the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 2016, enabling 14,000 kids to lead healthier lives.

  • In 1998, our law enforcement leaders were critical to the launch of the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, the primary federal support for after-school programs. Our message, which highlighted the after-school hours as “the prime time for juvenile crime,” reached an audience of 25 million people. The 21st CCLC program currently enables 1.6 million youth to participate in after-school programs, which can reduce their risk of crime during those hours.


In addition to our work in increasing access to high-quality early education and care (discussed above), our members are building a strong workforce by improving the nation’s schools:

  • Council for a Strong America helped 12 states maintain high academic standards and aligned assessments. Since 2014, our members have educated state policymakers about the connection between high academic goals and a next generation that is workforce-ready, crime-free, and military-eligible.

  • Council for a Strong America expanded Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in three states. Since 2014, our members have increased the number of skills-based high school education models in California, Michigan, and Oregon—helping to reduce workforce skills gaps.


Council for a Strong America is working to improve the lives of children and expand military eligibility among young Americans.

In addition to our work related to education and crime prevention (discussed above), Council for a Strong America is improving military eligibility by preventing obesity:

  • Council for a Strong America made healthy school foods a reality for 30 million students. Bringing attention to the threat that obesity poses to the U.S. military, our members helped secure the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010—landmark, bipartisan legislation that directed that school nutrition guidelines be updated to reflect the latest science.

  • Council for a Strong America successfully advocated for improved walking and biking opportunities in three states. Since 2014, our members won nearly $1 million in funding for safe walking and biking routes near schools in California, Colorado, and Minnesota.

  • Council for a Strong America protected physical education (PE) programs in four states. More youth are getting daily exercise in California, Florida, Illinois, and Tennessee thanks to our members’ advocacy for PE in schools.