Dear Senate District 48,
– Week 2 –
A Shortened Week
The legislature reconvened on Tuesday after a three-day weekend to observe the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Although the legislative week was shorter, we still packed lots of business into each day. Along with more subcommittee meetings, committee meetings were held and included discussion of legislation that has already passed out of subcommittees as well as presentations to gain new and updated knowledge on various issues for Iowans. It was a productive week!
Bike Day on the Hill
Tuesday was Bike Day at the capitol. Members from the Iowa Bicycle Coalition were present in the First Floor Rotunda to speak with legislators about their legislative priorities for this session. Iowa’s largest bicyclist community are advocating for safety measures for cyclists and for continued investment in our state’s beautiful trail system. One piece of legislation that they will be following this session is SF 16, which I referenced in last week’s newsletter.
Veterans Day on the Hill
Veterans from across the state joined us at the capitol on Wednesday, to share a time of fellowship, listen to speeches and have conversations about priorities for the session. It is important for us to be able to hear from our veteran constituents. No one understands the relevant issues better than the veterans who deal with these issues in their own lives. We took the opportunity to thank them for their service and hear their thoughts on ways the legislature can help improve the lives of our veterans.
Students First Act Moves Forward
This week the Senate Education and Appropriations committees passed Senate File 94, commonly known as the Students First Act. Governor Reynolds spoke at length about this bill in her Condition of the State speech last week. The bill has been the primary topic in the Iowa Senate over the first two weeks. After passing both committees the bill is now eligible to be debated by the full Senate.
The Students First Act empowers all parents and students to choose the public or non-public school to best fit their educational needs. It establishes an Educational Savings Account (ESA) for parents to pay for private school tuition, tutoring or other non-public school related expenses. The plan phases-in over a three-year period. Once fully implemented all students will be eligible for an ESA. Currently, only families with significant financial means are able to afford to pay their income, sales, and property taxes while also paying thousands of dollars per year in private school tuition. This bill opens school choice to low- and middle-income families as well.
The governor’s bill also includes over $1,200 per student in new funding for public schools with resident students attending a non-public school. Public schools will keep their property tax revenue and they will receive an estimated $1,200 for each resident student opting for private education with an ESA. SF 94 also creates an opportunity for nearly a hundred million dollars statewide, currently unused in restricted accounts in public schools, to be used to raise teacher pay.
Experiences in other states with substantive school choice programs show improved student achievement in both public and non-public schools. Eleven peer-reviewed studies show improved achievement from students in private schools, and 25 studies show improved achievement from students in public school in states with school choice programs. Furthermore, students in rural schools also see improved achievement. Arizona, a state with one of the most expansive school choice programs in the country, saw rural students improved by 21 points between 2007-2019 compared to a national rural decrease of two points.
Some critics say school choice will take funding away from public schools. This claim is quickly countered by the record of increases for K-12 schools over the last several years. Since 2017, cumulative increases in K-12 spending is roughly $1.5 billion. Next year, Iowa schools are expected to receive over $17,000 per student, for an average of over $340,000 for a classroom of 20 students, and a total of $8 billion statewide from all sources. Despite Democrats’ claims of defunding education, the only time K-12 funding has been cut is when Democrats controlled all of state government in 2009-2010.
Legitimate polls of Iowa voters have consistently shown strong parental support for school choice for all reasons but especially for bullying, special learning needs, and tutoring. Governor Reynolds also made school choice a centerpiece of her campaign and she won by one of the largest margins in an Iowa governor’s race in the last 40 years. Iowans have shown their support of school choice and after this week, it is several steps closer to becoming a reality.
Educator Applications Now Open for the 2023-2024 STEM Scale-Up Program This week the Governor’s STEM Council announced that applications are now being accepted for the 2023-2024 STEM Scale-Up Program. This sounds like a great opportunity for educators to gain training and professional development during the summer of 2023 and then implement the STEM content into their classrooms during the 2023-2024 school year. For more information on the application
click hereTo learn about more STEM opportunities around the state check out the Southeast Iowa STEM Region Website.
For more great STEM resources and information about the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council go to https://iowastem.org/
Visitors to the Capitol This Week
Besides our Bikers and Veterans, many other groups visited the Capitol this week. Some of the groups included the Iowa Youth Conference, the Iowa Travel Industry Partners, the State Police Officers Council, and the Iowa Chamber Alliance.