We have just completed the second week and are beginning to work on bills for the session. The majority of the week was spent on subcommittee meetings for bills. I chaired a subcommittee on a bill that would add $3000 for every VSO (Veterans Service Officer) officer to receive updated training to ensure more efficient services and benefits for our veterans. The bill unanimously passed out of subcommittee and will go to the full Veterans’ committee for a vote.
Regardless of what side you find yourself in regards to the debate over school choice, it is important to know actual facts following Tuesday’s public hearing. The school choice bill is likely to head to the house floor sometime next week.
First, Iowans frequently hear that nonpublic schools can deny students admission for any reason including outright discrimination. However, Iowa Code 216.9 states that “It is unfair or discriminatory practice for any educational institution to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religious, or disability in any program or activity.” It goes on to say that for a bona fide religious institution, they can impose “qualifications based on religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity when such qualifications are related to a bona fide religious purpose or any institution from admitting students of only one sex.” In Administrative Rule 281—IAC 12.1(1) it says that “equal opportunity shall be provided to all students regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, disability, religion, or creed.” This lets a religious school maintain their religious qualifications, however, an accredited nonpublic school still has to adhere to anti-discriminatory laws. On top of that, schools and districts must collect and review data on the basis of race, national origin, gender, and disability.
Second, some try to say that teachers don’t have to be licensed in accredited nonpublic schools. That is incorrect. Administrative Rules 281—IAC12.4 states that “a teacher shall be defined as a member of the instructional professional staff who holds a license/certificate endorsed for the type of position in which employed.” This is not just a requirement for public schools, but accredited nonpublic schools as well. Keep in mind, this program is only for accredited nonpublic schools. This does not include nonaccredited schools.
Third, Iowans have heard the cost is going to be too much for the state of Iowa. The state is estimated to spend about $900 million on it over the next four years. To put that number into context, the state is estimated to spend $15.2 billion on public education over the same time period. It is also important to note the state will have taken in $39.2 billion in revenue over that time period as well.
Today the state’s ending balance is $1.6 billion which provides a cushion for any downturn in state revenues. That doesn’t even take into account the $2.7 billion that is in the Taxpayer Relief Fund which protects things like public education, public safety and Medicaid from any downturn in revenues in regards to recent income tax cut. The Governor’s school choice proposal fits within long-term budget parameters, and does not impact the ability to fund other state programs like public safety, Medicaid, mental health, and future increases in the school funding formula.
House File 6 – Workforce Grant and Incentive Program – Subcommittee scheduled for Thursday
A new program that incentivizes students attending the three Regent universities to go into high-demand job fields.
House File 11 – Student Right to Know – Passed out of Subcommittee
Requires the Board of Regents publicly publish an online database to provide students with information about post-graduation median salary, loan debt, debt-to-income ratio, and more for the degrees they offer.
House File 12 – Teaching the Crimes of Communism – Passed out of Subcommittee
Requires within US Government curriculum that there is a comparative discussion of political ideologies such as communism and totalitarianism, which conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy that are essential to the founding principles of the United States.
House File 13 – Rural Hospitals – Passed unanimously out of subcommittee
Establishes licensure in Iowa for Rural Emergency Hospitals – a health care facility that maintains a 24-hour emergency room, but does not include acute inpatient care – allowing them to receive reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid at a higher rate.
Finally, while this year isn’t a general election year, Plymouth County will be having a special election on March 7th, and the entire state will hold City-School elections this November. County auditors are always looking for new poll workers to check in voters, answer questions, and help ensure elections run smoothly in each precinct. It’s a great way to serve your state and nation, and you get paid! You can learn more at Pollworker.Iowa.gov.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.