This week marks the second self-imposed deadline of the session to narrow the number of bills still eligible for debate and move toward adjournment for the year. It’s called the second funnel week.
I’m pleased that many of our priorities are still alive this year; however, there are several common sense bills already approved by the Senate that the house majority party killed this week.
At the top of the list is a bill expanding our anti-bullying law to include social media and keep kids safe in schools. It was crafted after the Governor’s Bullying Prevention Summit held last fall and has strong bi-partisan support.
However, it was eliminated for consideration this session by House majority leaders after 16 House members from their party spoke out against a recent anti-bullying conference. This socially extreme group of lawmakers also threatened to hold up funding for Iowa’s 15 community colleges if Des Moines Area Community College didn’t withdraw as a sponsor of the anti-bullying conference.
The safety and well-being on our kids is at stake. These 16 House members put their own narrow social agenda first. Nothing positive can come from their actions. I will do all I can to make certain anti-bullying legislation moves forward next session. Our kids deserve it.
I’ll also fight any efforts to delay or reduce support for community colleges, particularly DMACC.
A few other common sense proposals that should become law this year include radon testing for schools and homes, suicide prevention training for educators, Made in Iowa legislation to keep our tax dollars in local communities, and better training for child abuse prevention.
It’s unfortunate these bills will not move forward. I’m hopeful that next year the house majority leadership will realize the need to address these issues.
Improving education has been a priority in the Legislature for several years now. Starting over four years ago with statewide preschool and developing new 21st Century guidelines for school curriculum, we’re working on the next step of education improvements this year.
After the House and Senate approved differing plans on education this session, we’ve sent both plans to a conference committee that will work to find consensus and develop a plan that can pass both chambers and get the Governor’s signature.
It’s a step in the right direction and I’m optimistic we can find common ground, but we need to move quickly. That’s because the bill also includes a critical school funding piece for the upcoming school year, called allowable growth.
I want to make certain everyone understands ‘allowable growth.’ The allowable growth formula sets the amount of state and property tax dollars that fund school districts.
The Legislature is mandated by code to set the rate 30 days after the Governor releases the budget. This gives schools about 18 months advance notice concerning what state funds they will receive.
Then local school boards begin to set their budgets. Last session, we should have set the allowable growth rate for the school year that will begin in August 2013.
Our first order of business this year should have been to set the allowable growth rate for Iowa’s schools. Instead of taking quick action this session, the Governor issued an ultimatum and insisted lawmakers first pass his education reform proposal.
I strongly support 4-percent allowable growth, which has already been approved by the Senate. Everyone knows you can’t purchase a gallon of milk with the same dollar you used to purchase it with last year, so why would our Governor and house majority legislators expect schools to meet their rising fuel, utility, textbook, computer, and other costs with non-inflationary adjusted budgets?
It doesn’t make sense. This is yet another example of political games coming before our kids.
By next week, most schools will have approved budgets for the next school year — as they are required to do by law — without knowing the state funding level. We’ve already begun to see the negative consequences of the state funding delay as school boards are being forced to send notices about teacher layoffs, raise class sizes, and delay technology improvements.
School leaders have been warning us for months this would happen but the house majority and the Governor have refused to listen. With our schools in a terrible bind right now, the education conference committee must work to resolve their differences as quickly as possible to end the uncertainty for schools.
I’m proud to represent Newton, Colfax, Baxter, Mingo, Kellogg, Prairie City, Lambs Grove, Ira, and Valeria. Feel free to contact me anytime at 641-521-9260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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