After a long night of debate on Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a modified version of the Governor's Education Reform Bill early Wednesday morning.
Most Iowans recognize that our current method of investing in education is producing the same results year after year, while other states continue to pass us by in academic excellence. Just 20 years ago, Iowa students ranked first in the country. Last year our ranking had slipped to the middle of the pack.
There are various components of this bill that address issues regarding student academic achievement, professional development for teachers, local control for parents and school districts, and alternative forms of education, such as private and home instruction.
While there are varied opinions about this Education Reform Bill, it did receive a broad consensus of support from the business and education communities. John Deere, 3M, Dupont, Wellmark, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Association of Business and Industry, Hy-Vee and the Iowa Chamber Alliance all supported the bill. These and other businesses, which will soon be hiring Iowa students, see this plan as an investment for their futures, as well as for the future of the state in general.
The education community of supporters included: Professional Educators of Iowa, Board of Regents, Board of Educational Examiners, Iowa College Student Aid Commission, Urban Education Network, Iowa Association of School Boards, StudentsFirst, Iowa Association of Christian Schools, Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators and the Iowa Department of Education.
The Education Reform Bill now moves on to the Iowa Senate for consideration.
Along with education, healthcare is another issue of importance for most Iowans. On Feb. 15, the State Auditor's Office released a report on the IowaCare program. IowaCare provides healthcare to low-income individuals that are not eligible for Medicaid. It covers adults between the ages of 19 and 64 whose family income is no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL).
The audit was conducted to determine if IowaCare has been administered in compliance with applicable laws and to determine if it is meeting its program purpose and goals. Unfortuntely, the auditor found many areas of non-compliance in the IowaCare program.
Of the concerns raised, the audit reported non-compliance with IowaCare administrative rules established by DHS to determine eligibility. Certain documentation that was essential for determining eligibility was not available in the files the auditor looked at. The auditor recommends DHS implement procedures to ensure timely processing of applications and compliance with eligibility requirements prior to approving applicants.
Another area of concern dealt with verification of application information. DHS does not consistently verify self-reported application information, such as income and household size. Of the 60 case files selected, 54 did not contain supporting documentation for the household composition listed on the application. DHS does not perform quality control reviews or verify the eligibility of IowaCare participants until after the applicants have been approved and are receiving services. The auditor recommends DHS should amend their rules to require verification of application information prior to application approval.
Just as it is important to help take care of our neighbors who are unable to provide for themselves, it is equally important to ensure that government does not enable the abuse of Iowa taxpayer's generosity and benevolence. If our society's safety net is to remain solvent, we must demand accountability and discourage fraudulent use of the system which takes from those who are truly in need. You might recall that one of my most passionate issues on the campaign trail was to clean up state government. Exposing issues such as this is a good place to start.
Upcoming town hall forums for Friday, March 1, will be at Wilson's Corner in Bussey at 6:30 a.m. and the Melcher-Dallas City Hall at 2 p.m. I will also be attending a legislative roundtable discussion on that day at Vermeer's Global Pavillion in Pella at 8 a.m.
Feel free to contact me with your issues or concerns as they arise either by phone (515-281-3221), e-mail (greg.heartsill(at sign)legis.iowa.gov) or in person when visiting the Capitol. I appreciate hearing from you and consider it an honor to be your representative in the Iowa Legislature. Until next time, God bless!