More Assistance Needed for Iowa Public Schools
Debate on Inadequate School Funding During Pandemic
This week, both the House and Senate are debating bills that fund Iowa’s public schools. Unfortunately, the legislation is worse than expected – both bills are inadequate and won’t help our students or schools with pandemic recovery.
The House school funding proposal includes:
- Lower funding next year for kids in 137 school districts
- Due to lower enrollment, GOP bill punishes thousands of kids in communities with high COVID positivity rates
- $70 million less new funding than last year
Due to COVID-19, some parents delayed starting their kids in either preschool or kindergarten or decided to homeschool. This means schools will receive less funding next school year just as many of those kids return to the classroom. The bill being considered in the House does not fix this problem and also shifts millions in school expenses on to local property taxpayers.
With the pandemic still going, we’ve heard from parents, teachers, and school leaders that the state must be doing more to help students recover. House Democrats proposed a higher state investment in public schools and student pandemic recovery grants.
Making Child Care More Affordable
Iowa is facing a child care crisis in both urban and rural areas. Nearly a quarter of the state’s residents are estimated to live in a childcare desert, while the annual cost has been estimated to be more than tuition at one of Iowa’s public universities.
This week, the Iowa House approved two bills to address the issue. House File 292 raises rates for providers that accept child care assistance funds for families. Another bill, House File 302, creates a state-funded program to allow families to gradually get off this assistance as their wages increase. For a family that is near the income limit, even a slight raise would disqualify them for the benefit and be subject to the full child care costs, which is called the “cliff effect.”
While these bills were a good first step, House Democrats offered a proposal to provide grants to expand and open new licensed child care facilities; create new partnership with small businesses to expand childcare; and expand the Child Care and Dependent Care Tax Credit, all while ensuring children are kept safe.
As the pandemic made Iowa’s child care crisis even worse, more must be done to make child care more affordable and accessible for Iowa families.
Continue to Do Your Part to Stop the Spread, COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments Available
Late last week, Governor Reynolds lifted restrictions on mitigation efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. Despite that decision, Iowan’s are still heavily encouraged to follow CDC guidelines by wearing a mask, staying home if you are sick, washing your hands, and social distancing.
Residents across the state of Iowa are continuing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As of February 9, 2021, over 364,000 doses have been administered, and over 95,000 series have been completed (residents who have already received both doses).
Doses are still being administered to the Phase 1B category. This group includes:
- Persons age 65 and older
- PK-12 school staff, early education and childcare workers
- First responders (firefighters, police officers, child welfare social workers)
While the vaccine is in short supply right now, Iowans can still schedule an appointment. To schedule an appointment, find a provider at: coronavirus.iowa.gov. The Area Agency on Aging is also assisting older Iowans who are homebound to schedule an appointment. Call a local Area Agency on Aging at 1-866-468-7887, Monday-Friday 8:00 am – 4:30 pm.
Beginning within the next couple of weeks, Iowa will receive more doses of the vaccine through the federal Retail Pharmacy Program. This program will allocate around 10,000 additional doses per week to pharmacies, in addition to the doses allocated directly to the state. These vaccines will be in some Hy-Vees and independent pharmacies, like Medicap and will be for those Iowans ages 65 and older. For more information regarding this program, please visit:
Reasons to Wear a Mask after You’re Vaccinated
1. No vaccine is 100% effective. Large clinical trials found that two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines prevented 95% of illnesses caused by the coronavirus.
2. Vaccines don’t provide immediate protection. It takes about two weeks for the immune system to make the antibodies that block viral infections.
3. COVID vaccines may not prevent you from spreading the virus. While COVID vaccines clearly prevent illness, researchers need more time to figure out whether they prevent transmission too.
4. Masks protect our fellow citizens with compromised immune systems, such as people with cancer and other serious conditions.
5. Masks protect against any strain of the coronavirus, even genetic mutations that can be more highly contagious.
The best hope for ending the pandemic isn’t to choose between masks, physical distancing and vaccines, but to combine them.
More information at: khn.org/news/article/5-reasons-to-wear-a-mask-even-after-youre-vaccinated.
Insulin Costs Cap Passes Iowa House
A new measure to reduce the cost of insulin passed the Iowa House this week. House File 263 caps prescription insulin costs at $100. Insulin prices for those who are insured currently vary, but some brands have reached up to $300 or more for one vial (or enough for one month). The cost of insulin has continually increased over the last decade.
Legislators also passed House File 262, a bill allowing Iowans to receive a 31-day emergency insulin supply with an expired prescription. This legislation also includes medications like Epi-Pens and rescue inhalers. It is intended to prevent situations when a patient is unable to receive medications because they cannot reach their doctor, and have an expired prescription.
Both bills will now go to the Iowa Senate for further consideration.
Lifetime Trout Fishing License Approved
A lifetime trout fishing license for people over the age of 65 was approved by the Iowa House this week. Currently, those who want to fish for trout must purchase a trout license, more commonly known as the trout stamp. Iowa awards a lifetime regular fishing license for those over the age of 65. The cost of the regular life-time fishing license is $61.50, with the fee for the new license being determined by the Department of Natural Resources.
The bill, House File 234, guarantees those over the age of 65 who purchase a lifetime trout license will no longer need to purchase the yearly trout stamps.
The bill now moves to the Senate for their consideration.
House Committee Passes Pledge of Allegiance in Schools Bill
Iowa is currently one of three other states that does not have some type of law in the books in regards to the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. Other states have laws that allow for a student to opt-out or leave the decision up the school boards. The proposal, passed by the House State Government Committee, requires school districts to offer the Pledge of Allegiance for grades K-12 on a daily basis, with the United States flag show. The requirement also applies to accredited non-public schools.
A student is allowed to opt-out of saying the pledge and cannot be forced to recite. A parent or guardian can also object to their child saying the pledge and the legislation allows for religious exemptions.
Other Iowa News
FREE TAX HELP: The Internal Revenue’s Service Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to low- and moderate-income households, individuals with disabilities, and taxpayers with limited English-language skills. To locate the VITA site nearest to you go to: irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/ or call 1-888-227-7669.
ACA SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD BEGINS FOR IOWANS: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the ACA special enrollment period begins February 15, 2021 and ends May 15, 2021 for Iowans purchasing or changing their Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual health coverage. Premium assistance in the form of tax credits is available for households with qualifying income levels. The special enrollment period will give Iowans economically impacted by the pandemic another opportunity to access affordable, comprehensive health coverage. Iowans may call 1-800-318-2596 or visit healthcare.gov for information regarding enrollment and to calculate applicable tax credits. Local insurance agents, assisters and Iowa’s navigators are available to help Iowans review which insurance plan may best fit their needs. Iowans can find local help by visiting localhelp.HealthCare.gov/.