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Legislative update from Rep. Sharon Steckman

Iowa Students Head Back to School

Most of Iowa’s preK-12 students will head back to school beginning August 23rd.  Unfortunately, many of the students will be feeling the impact from seven years of the lowest school funding levels in Iowa history.  Many local school districts have been forced to increase class size, cut teachers, reduce course offerings, and raise property taxes.  The low state funding has also contributed to a net loss of 61 public schools in Iowa from 2011 to 2016, according to the Iowa Department of Education (DE).

The number of districts, particularly in rural areas, that have authorized agreements with other districts to share administrative staff has also increased.  There were 196 school districts that shared services in the 2015-16 school year, and for the 2017-18 school year there are 228, or 69% of Iowa’s 333 school districts.

Also according to the latest DE numbers, Iowa schools are educating an increasing number of students.  Certified enrollment in PreK-12 public schools was up slightly in the 2015-16 school year to 483,451.  The projected number of students for the 2017-18 upcoming school year is 484,510.
Meningitis Shot Required for 7th and 12th Graders
There is a new vaccination requirement for students going back to school to help stop the spread of meningitis.  Under a new state law, a meningitis shot is required for students entering 7th and 12th grades.

The vaccine has been recommended for pre-teenagers for over a decade, and Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) does not anticipate any shortages.  Based on survey information, IDPH estimates that 75% of Iowa adolescents 13-to-17 have already received the meningitis vaccination.

Task Force Discusses Tuition at State Universities

After Republican lawmakers & Governor Reynolds cut over $24 million during the 2017 session from Iowa’s three state universities, students will be forced to pay higher tuition starting this school year.  Approved by the Iowa Board of Regents to make up for the shortfall in state funding, Iowa students will have to pay an additional $358 in undergraduate tuition this fall.

The Iowa Board of Regents also set up a task force to review the student tuition increases and reductions in state funding.  The task force completed work after meetings in Cedar Falls, Ames and Iowa City and heard feedback from students and staff on the impacts of the change in funding.

In 2001, state appropriations accounted for 64% of the Regent’s overall budget, while tuition made for only 31%.  Now those numbers have flipped; state dollars now account for 32% of the Regent’s overall budget, while tuition makes up for the rest at 63%.  Today, the Regent schools are receiving $56 million less compared to almost 20 years ago.  This has resulted in higher tuition picked up by Iowa families.

Task force members were provided the following proposed tuition increases from the three universities over the next five years:
             2018    2019    2020    2021    2022
University of Northern Iowa:    5.1%    6.7%    5.2%    3.7%    3.1%    *
Iowa State University:               7%     7%        7%       7%       7%
University of Iowa:                7.08%   7.08%    7.08%   7.08%   7.08%

*(This was one of University of Northern Iowa’s proposals that was based on state appropriations remaining level.)

Low Interest Loans Available from Small Business Administration

Residents of seven counties (Bremer, Iowa, Black Hawk, Buchanan, Butler, Chickasaw, Fayette, and Floyd) that experienced damages to homes and businesses as a result of the severe weather between July 19 and July 23, are eligible to apply for low interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. These loans can be used to repair or replace real property, personal property, as well to help with costs that will protect, prevent, or minimize disaster damage from happening again in the future.

There are three types of loans available to these residents, and the application deadlines:

  • Business Physical Disaster Loans – Loans to businesses to repair or replace damaged property, including supplies and machinery and equipment. This is available to businesses of any size including private, non-profit organizations. Deadline: Oct. 2, 2017.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans – Working capital loans to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, non-profit organizations meet their normal financial obligations. Deadline: May 3, 2018.
  • Home Disaster Loans – Loans to homeowners to renters to repair or replace damaged real estate and personal property, including automobiles. Deadline: Oct. 2, 2017.

Persons who are interested in applying, or have additional questions can access the information by either contacting the Disaster Loan Outreach Center located in Sumner, or by going to the Small Business Administration’s website,

https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Declarations/Index

The SBA’s Customer Service Center’s phone number is 800-659-2955.
Disaster Loan Outreach Center
Sumner Recycling Center
300 Pleasant Street
Sumner, IA 50674
Hours: Monday – Friday: 8 am – 5 pm
Closes August 22

ILEA Class Schedule Available Online

The Iowa Law Enforcement Academy’s (ILEA) schedule of classes, for both basic and specialty, is now available to view online. This will allow persons who are interested in taking a specialty course to see when it will be offered, and entities that have an employee going through training to view exactly what classes their employee is taking during the week.

Access to the webpage containing the schedule is found under ILEA’s “What’s New” tab, located in the left-hand column of their home page, or you can click on the following link, https://ileaschedule.iowa.gov/calendar. ILEA expects that this webpage will save staff time as they continue to schedule classes into the future.

Veterans Mental Health Community Summit

VA Central Iowa Health Care Systems is hosting a summit regarding the healthcare needs of Veterans in Iowa. The summit will focus specifically on substance abuse and address topics such as suicide prevention and resources that are available to Veterans in regards to substance abuse disorders. There will be an active dialogue between stakeholders on how organizations can work together to continue to improve services for Veterans across the state.

The summit takes place on August 24, 2017, at the Boy Scouts of America Mid-Iowa Council building in Des Moines from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm. To RSVP for the event, please email Marissa Dietzenbach at Marissa.Dietzenbach@va.gov.

Summer Weather Having Environmental Impacts Across State

Hot and dry summer weather is impacting the state in a variety of ways. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is warning that hot summer weather could lead to more fish kills, especially if there are even small amounts of pollution. Also, approximately 2/3 of the state is experiencing dry conditions of soil.

The DNR warns that late summer is one of the most likely times for fish kills in the state as temperatures are high and oxygen levels in the water are low. As aquatic plants and algae die these plants decay and that removes dissolved oxygen from the water, which can cause fish kills. In addition, the DNR warns that even a small amount of polluted runoff can cause problems during hot summer days.

“Historically we see more pollution-related fish kills in August and September. We’ve investigated four fish kills in the last two weeks. So we want to encourage farmers, pesticide and manure applicators, and homeowners to be extra careful when applying chemicals, fertilizers and manure,” said Ken Hessenius, supervisor at DNR’s Spencer field office.

The monthly Water Summary Update also shows dry conditions from northwest Iowa to southeast Iowa, including large areas of moderate drought. The average rainfall in the state was 1.3 inches below normal for July, but some areas were as much as 4 inches below normal. The full report can be found at http://www.iowadnr.gov/watersummaryupdate.

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