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Legislative update from Rep. Todd Prichard

This news story was published on March 24, 2016.
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From Rep. Todd Prichard –

Todd Prichard

Todd Prichard

For this week’s newsletter, I am going to share the remarks I prepared for the School Funding floor debate. What follows are my comments for this floor debate which occured on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. The question before the house will be whether the House will pass a 2.25% increase in what is Supplemental State Aid for schools. I opposed this level of increase as it is inadequate for school funding, particularly rural school districts.

Good evening Madam Speaker and ladies and gentlemen of the House. Today I rise in opposition to the supplemental state aid proposal. As many of you know, I am the father of three young children. All three of my children attend school at the Charles City Community school district. Like all fathers, I want what is best for my children. I want them to be able to see a doctor when they need it; I want them to have nice clothes and a roof over their head. I also want them to have better opportunities in their life then I have had. Simply said, I want the best for my children. This particularly means I want them to have a world class education, because I know this is their best shot at finding a good career and providing for themselves when they are adults.

Ladies and gentlemen, I received some disturbing news this week from my home school district in Charles City. Due to a number of factors, of which funding is the most critical, my children’s school district is forced to cut over $500,000.00 from its budget. These cuts limit the quality of education my children will receive. It cuts staff. It reduces programming opportunities. It makes cuts that my children will have to bear.

Besides being a father and legislator, I am a small main street businessman. I run a small law firm and have a few other small business ventures as well. Over the years, I have made a reputation as a reliable business attorney in my community. I represent hundreds of small and large businesses in my community. In this capacity I have learned one very critical lesson: your employees make or break a business. Recently I had one major local employer tell me that the reason his company remains located in my community is because of the quality of our graduates. He said “an Iowa high school diploma means something to our business.” He went on to explain that our graduates come to the work force and their plant prepared to work. I considered his comment a high compliment for Iowa. I also took it as a good piece of advice: MAINTAIN IOWA’S HIGH QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM.

This bill does not achieve that task. Rather, this bill is just the latest step in what I view as the dismantling of Iowa’s public schools and I, quite frankly, want no role in that process.

In a different time a great figure in history, Winston Churchill, once stated, “I have not become the King’s first Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.” Likewise, I am not the Iowa House representative for my district to participate in the dismantling of the state’s community school system. I urge my colleagues in the House to oppose this bill. Thank you madam Speaker.

School Funding Deal Falls Short Again

After a year-long delay, the Iowa House Majority reached an agreement to provide a limited increase in basic public school funding at 2.25%. The Senate had approved 4% earlier in the session, and the House passed 2%, creating the need for a conference committee to reach a compromise.

Several school leaders said the agreement would lead to additional staff reductions. For example, school leaders in Davenport say they would have to reduce funding by $5 million next year. According to a survey released earlier this year, school leaders also said underfunding public schools next year would force them to delay purchases for books or classroom materials (77%); leave positions unfilled (71%); delay new technology (56%); and cut back literacy programs (43%).

According to Iowa law, public school funding was supposed to be set by lawmakers last session. The law requires public school funding be set first, 18 months in advance, so schools can plan and prepare children for today’s competitive workforce. This year marks the sixth year in a row the House Majority party has refused to follow the law.

While the issue is resolved for the upcoming school year, school funding has already passed the legislative deadline for the 2017-2018 school year and it is likely Iowa House leaders will not bring the bill up before adjourning for the year.

Protecting Victims of Bullying

The Legislature has sent a bill to the Governor that would allow an open-enrolled high school student, who is a victim of bullying or harassment to participate in athletics immediately. Currently, these students have to wait 90 days to participate on an athletic team.

The current law acts like a punishment to the victim. They may have escaped a terrible situation at their current school, and simply want to get back to the normal life of participating in a sport.

If signed by the Governor, it will likely be the only anti-bullying provision enacted into law by the Iowa House during the 2016 Session.

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