From Representative Todd Prichard –
The second and final funnel week of the legislature’s session has now passed and still no progress has been made on Supplemental State Aid for our community schools. Time is running out to pass Supplemental State Aid (SSA) as Iowa’s school districts are required to certify their budgets to the Iowa Department of Education by the 15th of this month. Without state action by April 15th, school districts will have no choice but to assume no state aid. This will mean programming cuts and lay-offs for many of Iowa’s school districts, including districts in our part of the state. This will result in larger class sizes and less educational programming in our schools.
The state’s failure to fund schools is unfortunate and will have negative consequences for our state’s future quality of living and economic success. In terms of quality of living, it has been a long held principle that public education is the foundation of a functioning. Public education is the cornerstone for an informed electorate.
The lack of commitment to public education the legislature is currently showing is a poor sign to the business community of this state that depends on highly trained workers to work in their industries. A few months ago, a high ranking executive of a major Northeast Iowa employer told me the following: “so long as a high school diploma means what it does in Iowa, my company will never leave Iowa. We love the quality of graduates this state produces.” That comment made an impression on me. Businesses know commitment to education matters. Many employers have located in Iowa because of our strong education system. We don’t want to change that aspect of our state. The legislature’s failure to fund public education sends the wrong message to the business community.
That quality of graduate my corporate executive friend was referring to does not come without a commitment to education. It is time the Iowa Legislature and the Governor reaffirm their commitment to quality education by passing SSA now.
Over the last few weeks I have spoken with teachers, school administrators and school board members in Charles City and New Hampton about the need to raise their voices in support of Iowa’s schools. The reception has been strong. I have been working with members of the legislature on both sides of the aisle to find a solution. I will continue to do what I can as a member of the Iowa House of Representatives to secure adequate state funding. The problem is I am just one vote out of 100. I ask that those of you who are reading this article to do the same and contact those in the legislature and Governor’s office and tell them how important Iowa’s schools are to the future of our Great State.
I will close with one last thought. This afternoon I had lunch in the capitol’s rotunda with ten young Girl Scouts of Troop 20014 from Mason City who visited the Statehouse today. Over sandwiches and chips, I asked each one to tell me what they wanted to do when they are grown up. Each one had a quick answer that ranged from teacher to doctor to President. In many ways their answers reflected each girl’s dream. The fact of the matter is each dream required a strong K-12 education to achieve. Let’s fund our children futures before it’s too late.
Expanding Access to Iowa Preschool
Lawmakers are working on plans this year to expand quality preschool options to more Iowa four year olds. In Iowa, about 54% of four year olds currently receive Iowa voluntary preschool instruction. The plan being considered this year would guarantee no child is turned away from quality preschool.
Today, many parents cannot get their child into a preschool program either because it is not offered, or the available slots are full. Unfortunately, it is not known how many children in Iowa currently are being excluded from preschool.
Early childhood programs improve academic achievement, reduce crime, increase workforce earnings and increase tax revenues. A cost-benefit analysis indicates that up to $16 is returned long-term for every $1 invested in a high-quality early childhood program. Although, the cost of preschool is generally about $3,500 to $4,000 per child annually, the long-term benefits include taxpayer savings in the future and an increase in student achievement.
Last year, 319 of 348 Iowa school districts participated in Iowa’s voluntary preschool program and served 21,926 children. The legislation is intended to provide enough funding to expand Iowa’s capacity to guarantee preschool to every 4-year old whose parent wants to have their student enrolled.
Senate File 473 is still eligible for debate in the Senate.
EpiPens Would be Allowed in Schools
A bill to allow public and private schools to maintain a supply of EpiPens has advanced in the House. The provision passed the Senate 50-0 earlier in the session.
Under the bill, a health care professional is allowed to prescribe EpiPens to the schools and allows personnel to administer the pens to students. If the trained personnel administer an injection in good faith to a student believed to have an allergic reaction, the school has legal immunity. Iowa is one of four states that do not allow trained school personnel the ability to administer EpiPens to a child that may need it.
It also allows facilities to maintain a supply of EpiPens at locations where the public is present such as food establishments, carnivals, recreational camp, and a sports facility. Standards for the prescriptions, distribution, storage replacement, and storage are required in the bill to be set.