A new survey of Iowa school superintendents found about two-thirds of them will be forced to increase class sizes, cut teachers and reduce educational opportunities for students if lawmakers fail to approve adequate school funding this year.
Nearly every school leader surveyed said the state has invested too little to make sure our kids get a world-class education. After six years of historically low funding for public schools, we must listen to their concerns and take action so that our students gain the skills they need for the jobs of the future.
Almost every superintendent who responded to the survey said the state’s investment in the last several years has not been enough to provide a top-notch education to all Iowa kids. Most also say we must increase basic state funding for public schools by at least a 4 percent to meet the many unmet needs, after several lean years.
Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds have proposed cutting that increase in half, which would mean:
71 percent of superintendents would have to increase class sizes
61 percent would layoff teachers
58 percent would reduce class offerings
65 percent would delay purchasing new textbooks and classroom materials
If legislative Republicans shortchange our schools again this year, it will put Iowa students at a big disadvantage. We must renew our commitment to education now, and let Iowans know we’re putting public schools first again.
VETERANS DAY ON THE HILL
Veterans from across Iowa came to the State Capitol to meet with legislators and enjoy a full schedule of activities, including a special ceremony in the rotunda honoring their service.
They also had the opportunity to meet Brig. Gen. William DeHaes of the Iowa National Guard; Brig. Gen. Jonathon McColumn, Commanding General of the 103rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Reserve; Commandant Jodi Tymeson of the Iowa Veterans Home; and members of the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs.
The commitment of Iowans to serve our country has always been strong, which is why veterans make up a higher proportion of our population than they do in many other states.
In Iowa, we have made it a priority to thank those who’ve served and sacrificed. We want Iowa to be a great place for veterans and their families, to become the home of returning service members, and to offer the education, job opportunities, health care and quality of life they deserve.
Recent successes include:
Protecting the parental rights of military members while they're deployed.
Making sure all veterans get a proper funeral with military honors and a final resting place.
Investing in improvements at our military and veterans' facilities.
Ensuring service-disabled veterans who own their own business are “targeted small businesses” eligible for low-interest loans, grants and consideration when the state seeks bids for goods and services.
Establishing a “one-stop shop” to access information on veterans’ preference for public employment.
Requiring disclosures by private providers who charge a fee to help veterans access their benefits.
Authorizing a veteran designation on Iowa driver’s licenses and identification cards for honorably discharged U.S. military veterans.
Preserving good jobs & protecting rights of those who served
Hard-working Iowans have a long tradition of volunteering to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. When they return, many veterans choose to continue their commitment to public service by working as police officers, firefighters, correctional officers and teachers.
Iowa Republicans are currently proposing new laws to repeal or restrict the voice public sector workers have in their working conditions. These changes could harm job quality and the veterans working in them. The right to join and form unions, and to sit down to negotiate over working conditions means front-line workers have a voice in decisions that affect them and those they serve.
Public sector jobs provide stable employment for our veterans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
21 percent of veterans work in the public sector, the highest veteran employment rate of any industry.
30 percent of women veterans work in the public sector.
30 percent of Gulf War II veterans work in the public sector.
36 percent of veterans with a service-connected disability work in the public sector.
WATER QUALITY MUST BE A PRIORITY
Water quality is one of the major issues we must address at the Capitol this session. Governor Branstad outlined his proposal to provide additional support for water quality efforts in his Condition of the State address, and is expected to introduce legislation to make it a reality.
Iowa needs a significant investment in better water quality that includes improving our soil and the health of our waterways. The state’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy illustrates the big job that lies ahead. We must limit the nitrogen and phosphorus making their way from our soil to our water. Nitrogen and phosphorus from Iowa end up in the Mississippi River and travel to the Gulf of Mexico, where they create a “dead zone” that kills fish and destroys ecosystems.
Iowa’s soil commissioners are on the front line of our efforts to improve water quality and soil health. Our state has 100 soil and water conservation districts that work with farmers and landowners to protect and improve these key natural resources.
The good folks in these offices help implement many of the conservation programs Iowa has in place. They develop relationships with individuals and get people interested and committed to improving and stabilizing their soil so that chemicals stay on the land and don’t end up in the water we and others around the country depend on.
To learn more about the work of Iowa Soil & Water Conservation Districts, go to www.iowaagriculture.gov/soilConservation.asp.
CREATING JOBS & CLEAN ENERGY WITH SOLAR
I joined 13 of my colleagues in filing a bill to increase our investment in one of the most successful state credits on the books: Iowa’s solar energy tax credit. Over the past four years, the credit has helped create more than 1,200 new solar system installations on farms, homes and businesses. An investment of about $16 million in state funds has generated more than $100 million in private investment, while creating more than 1,000 jobs throughout Iowa. This bill will create hundreds of new jobs and millions in additional investment. Learn more about Iowa’s Solar Energy System Tax Credit at http://programs-taxcredit.iowa.gov/Solar/Dashboard/External.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Girls can spend a day at the Statehouse
In partnership with the Girl Scouts, Iowa’s Office on the Status of Women hosts an annual event at the Statehouse for girls in grades 7-12. This year, Capitol Girls takes place Feb. 9. It’s an opportunity for young women to learn about state government, see how state laws and budgets are developed and passed, and meet with the Lt. Governor, female legislators and other leaders. Registration is due Jan. 26. For complete details, go to https://humanrights.iowa.gov/cas/icsw/capitol-girls.
Make a difference: be a mentor
January is National Mentoring Month. In Iowa, more than 8,000 mentors serve youth in programs certified by the Iowa Mentoring Partnership, but thousands more could benefit from having a mentor. Mentors can play a powerful role in providing young people with the tools to make responsible decisions, stay focused and engaged in school, and avoid risky behavior like skipping school and drug use. To learn more about becoming a mentor, go to www.iowamentoring.org.
Grants provide legal assistance to help low-income Iowans
Through Feb. 3, applications are being accepted for grants from the Interest on Lawyer Trust Account. The grants are awarded to public purpose projects that provide legal services to low-income people in civil cases, law-related education and other programs that improve justice in Iowa. Since the first awards were made in 1986, the program has granted more than $24 million. Grant applications and complete details are available at www.iowacourts.gov/For_Attorneys/Professional_Regulation/IOLTA.
Iowa Scholarship for the Arts
If you're a high school senior who will graduate this spring and plans to study arts at an accredited Iowa college or university in the fall, you can apply for a $1,500 Scholarship for the Arts. The deadline is Feb. 1. Guidelines, an application and information on past scholarship winners is available at https://iowaculture.gov/arts/opportunities/arts-recognition/iowa-scholarship-for-the-arts.
This is a legislative update from State Senator Matt McCoy, representing the west part of Des Moines, portions of West Des Moines and northwest Warren County.
For bio, photos and further information, go to www.mccoyforiowa.com. Follow Senator McCoy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/senatormccoy.
To contact Senator McCoy when the Legislature is in session, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. E-mail him at email@example.com.
Senator McCoy is an Assistant Leader, as well as ranking member on the Transportation & Infrastructure Budget and the Government Oversight Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Commerce, Local Government and Ways & Means committees.