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From the Capitol to You (from Rep. Sharon Steckman)

We are beginning to hear what the consequences of the Governor’s proposed budget for 2012 will be.|(Press release from Rep. Sharon Steckman)

We are beginning to hear what the consequences of the Governor’s proposed budget for 2012 will be. The Department of Human Services anticipates slashing over 200 positions and the Department of Inspections and Appeals will cut 10 of the 38 nursing professionals who currently inspect nursing homes. Workforce Development will be closing 39 centers statewide, costing 107 jobs. Universal preschool will be a thing of the past.

Last night, the House voted a 20% across-the-board tax cut, which for the average Mason City resident will amount to approximately $19.92 per month. That same average person with small children will now be paying a monthly fee for preschool which probably means a net loss. Another argument for the tax cut was that it would create jobs.

A small business in the upper tax bracket ($358,000) would realize $568.50 per month, which would hardly be enough for one part-time job.

That’s why I supported a plan this week to ensure funding for preschool next year while providing tax relief for middle class families. Unfortunately, the plan was rejected on a party line vote and a massive tax break package that rewards the wealthy and costs the state $700 million was adopted ñ also on a party line vote.

After the House voted to end Iowa’s Voluntary Statewide Preschool for 20,000 kids last month, we heard from parents and educators that the preschool initiative is well worth saving. You can make your voices heard at the following websites:

http://iowahouse.org/preschoolpetition

http://www.Iowakidsfirst.com

Points to consider:

Under Governor Branstad’s plan, there is no guarantee of quality certified instruction. What system of licensure will be used?

Local school districts will be left in the lurch, forcing them to end successful partnerships with private, local preschool providers in their communities.

There is no provision for transportation in voucher paid preschool programs. It will reduce access to programs and transportation for thousands of middle-class families with working parents. If families can’t get their children there during the day, it doesn’t help to give them vouchers/scholarships.

“Who is going to be the “collection agency” for this? Who determines who is eligible for scholarships/vouchers? What happens if someone doesn’t pay? … an administrative nightmare.” (Sen. Brian Schoenjahn)

Recognizing that we have a $900 million state budget surplus, we need to ensure our state has world class schools and make sure Iowa has a highly skilled workforce for the 21st Century.

It’s likely that debate over preschool and zero allowable growth for schools will continue until near the end of the legislative session in late April. I hope Iowans will weigh in with legislators and the Governor about the importance of both of these issues in maintaining the support that we have always given to education in Iowa.

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