Public Dollars for Public Schools
School Voucher Debate Continues in Iowa House
Once again, lawmakers are debating a school voucher bill introduced by Governor Reynolds. The proposal would shift millions of taxpayer dollars from public schools to private schools and homeschools instead.
During a subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, the bill was met with strong opposition from students, parents, teachers, and school leaders.
In Iowa, parents already have multiple options for educating their children, including open enrollment, private schools, and home schools.
This year, over $100 million in public tax dollars will be spent to support non-public schools. In the last six years, funding for private schools and homeschools has increased by 150 percent.
Iowans have expressed concerns that taking away more money from public schools, while already underfunded, will result in more school closings, higher class sizes, and fewer opportunities for kids. Others are adamant that public money should be used for public schools, stating that the bill unfairly targets kids in rural schools.
If the bill is approved this year, another $53 million in state tax dollars would be shifted from public schools to private schools. That money would benefit only 2 percent of Iowa students.
The bill, House Study Bill 672, also includes a ban on certain books and curriculum in Iowa schools. The bill must be approved by the full Appropriations Committee before it can be debated by the full House.
Lawmakers Work to Expand Solar Energy
As energy prices continue to rise, Iowa lawmakers are working together to follow through on a commitment made to Iowans who invested in solar energy to power their homes.
Approved by the House Ways and Means Committee, HF 2395 will honor a promise made to Iowans that installed solar energy systems on their homes. For several years, Iowa offered a $5,000 tax credit for solar energy installations, but once it expired last year, many Iowans were left on a waiting list without receiving the credit.
While this bill is a good step, Democratic lawmakers have been working to continue and expand the successful solar energy program to reduce demand and lower energy costs. Last session, those plans were not approved by majority party lawmakers.
The bill now goes to the House Floor for a vote.
Radon Testing and Mitigation in Schools
Iowa lawmakers approved a bill this week to conduct more radon testing and mitigation in schools. Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that can cause cancer. Iowa has some of the highest radon levels in the country and it’s commonly found in basements and older buildings, including schools.
While many school districts are already addressing the problem, the bill would require schools to implement radon testing by 2027 and additionally. at least once every five years. Schools must also have a plan to mitigate any radon issues to protect kids and staff.
The bill, HF 2412, is named the “Gail Orcutt School Safety Radon Act” after she advocated for the bill for many years before losing her battle to radon induced lung cancer in 2020.
The parts of the above map that you see in RED (All of Iowa) indicates that the entire state is “Zone l” meaning that there are cancer causing / elevated RADON levels in all 99 counties. Source: epa.gov.
Safe Haven Law Expands Abandoned Newborn Protection
Iowa’s law to protect abandoned newborns was expanded by the Iowa House this week.
The bill, House File 2420, widens the amount of time an infant can be turned over and considered part of the Newborn Safe Haven Act from 30 days old to 90 days old. This allows the parents or someone authorized by the parent, to leave an infant up to 90 days old at a hospital or another healthcare facility without fear of persecution for abandonment.
Iowa implemented the Safe Haven law in 2001 and since then more than 40 infants have been relinquished to the state’s care where the goal is to find families that will adopt them.
The bill now goes to the Senate for approval.
More Iowa News
BILL COULD MAKE DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME A THING OF THE PAST: For Iowans who struggle with the Daylight-Saving time change every year, hope could be on the way. The Iowa House passed a bill this week to make Daylight-Saving Time permanent in Iowa. However, the change only goes into effect when the federal government approves the change. In the last four years, 19 states have enacted legislation or resolutions for year-round daylight-saving time. This includes the border state of Minnesota, which has passed similar legislation dependent on approval from Congress. The bill now heads to the Iowa Senate.
AVIAN FLU FOUND IN IOWA AGAIN: A positive case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in a backyard poultry flock of Pottawattamie County, and a second positive case has been confirmed in a commercial turkey flock in Buena Vista County. No human cases of avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States and it remains safe to eat poultry and eggs, if cooked to an internal temperature of 165˚F to kill bacteria and viruses. Iowans who raise poultry should practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their domesticated birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual deaths to state or federal officials. Avian influenza (AI) is a viral disease mainly affecting birds. An outbreak in 2015 led to the destruction of 32.7 million laying hens, turkeys, and other birds in Iowa. That was about two-thirds of the 50.5 million that were destroyed nationally, in what is considered the worst foreign animal disease outbreak on record. Possible cases should be reported to the Iowa Department of Agriculture at (515) 281-5305. For updates and more information about avian influenza, visit iowaagriculture.gov/animal-industry-bureau/avian-influenza.
DISABILITIES SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM PASSES HOUSE: The University of Iowa and Northwestern College have created programs to assist students with disabilities in their transition to higher education. The House has now passed HF 2495 to create a scholarship for students with intellectual, developmental, or learning disabilities and who are enrolled in a comprehensive transition program. A link to the University of Iowa REACH program can be found here: education.uiowa.edu/reach. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. If passed into law, the General Assembly would also have to provide the funds for the scholarship in a separate appropriation.