Category: View Point

ViewPoint: Let’s “show up” for our schools, students this falL

By Sam Miller, Chief Administrator, Cedar Rivers AEA
To all the students, parents, and educators we serve, welcome back! Having students “back” in school (whether virtually or in person) provides some of the normalcy and structure we all need right now. The teachers and school administrators I talk with have truly missed having kids in their buildings and are working hard to do everything they can to keep students safe and engaged in learning.
Let’s agree that it’s going to be a “heavy lift” for students and schools to succeed this fall. Most of us know that the odds are stacked against them with a pandemic still in full swing. The level of support our schools need from us now is different – it’s deeper and more immediate. Personally, I think we are up to the challenge. Whether it’s a pandemic or a derecho, Iowans always show up for each other when it matters.
So in the spirit of “showing up” for your child’s school this fall, here are some ideas to consider:
Idea #1: This year will be an armchair quarterback’s dream. If you are someone who enjoys a good critique, there will be lots of opportunities to have your say. What if we all backed away from social media and talked directly with each other when we have concerns about how the school year is going? Our students are watching and learning how to handle conflict directly from us as the adults. If we can do it in healthy ways, they will, too. And in the process they will gain life skills that they need to be successful in their professional and personal lives.
Idea #2: How about if we put our political differences aside when it comes to topics like face mask use and sports? What makes our country great is the freedom to choose what we believe and advocate for it. While I’m not suggesting that anyone abandon their beliefs, I am suggesting that all of us take a breath and consider our tone and words in the presence of our kids when discussing them. Things have gotten pretty heated in our country these days – and some would argue rightly so. But let’s consider whether we are advocating from anger or purpose. Anger seeks division. Purpose seeks win-win solutions. Let’s show kids the best of us.
Idea #3: Take time for yourself. Parents of school-aged children haven’t received the credit they deserve for juggling work, childcare, constant schedule disruptions, and the economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. You are entitled to some rest and time to regroup and recharge! Doing so will help you be a better parent and partner to your child’s school because you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges that come your way this year.
Our kids are watching, counting on us, and desperately needing some level of normalcy this fall. Let’s show up together not just for our schools, but most importantly for them.
Sam Miller is the Chief Administrator with Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA), based in Cedar Falls. He can be reached at smiller@centralriversaea.org. Central Rivers AEA serves over 65,000 students in 18 counties of Iowa.

ViewPoint: Iowa farmers need equal access to Coronavirus aid

By Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer
Like all small businesses, our family farmers are struggling with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, facing lower demand, disrupted incomes and an uncertain future — plus all the same monthly bills on rents, leases, supplies and other essentials.
Earlier this year, I helped pass the bipartisan CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program to ensure that small businesses have access to emergency funds to continue making payroll and meeting their obligations. But as the Small Business Administration implemented the PPP program and other small business assistance programs, farmers have run into one issue after another when it comes to accessing this aid. While some fixes have been made, the program still isn’t working for them the way it should.
That’s not right, and I’m doing something about it.
Last month, I introduced the bipartisan Expanding Assistance to Farmers Act of 2020 to ensure that farmers and agricultural producers can access PPP funds for their most pressing business expenses with less red tape and fewer bureaucratic strings attached.
The bill, which I co-authored with Congressman Dan Bishop (R-NC), ensures farmers and producers can use PPP loans to cover rental expenses related to equipment, land, and buildings — and that the funds spent on those expenses are forgivable just like loans extended earlier this year to other types of small business affected by the pandemic.
This bipartisan, commonsense legislation ensures fairness in one of our most important coronavirus-relief programs. That’s why it’s been endorsed by the Iowa Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation, and why American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall commended Congressman Bishop and I for “providing much-needed assistance to agricultural producers.”
Whether they’re located on Main Street or down a dirt road, we must stand up for our small businesses and help them through this historic crisis. And make no mistake: our family farmers and producers are small businesses. There’s no reason they should be concerned about whether they can use their relief aid to cover some of their basic expenses.
The Expanding Assistance to Farmers Act of 2020 ensures that PPP rules are applied uniformly to all small businesses. Under its provisions, agricultural producers could use forgivable PPP funds for payments on land, buildings and a wide range of equipment including tractors, combines, forage harvesters, planters, sprayers, hay rakes and wagons, field equipment, irrigation equipment, tools and supplies.
I’ll always work across the aisle to do the right thing for Northeast Iowa, and as we work toward another round of needed Coronavirus relief, we know that updates like this to the PPP program are a must-have for our farmers and producers. Our farm families need certainty and they simply cannot afford to wait.
Abby Finkenauer represents Iowa’s First District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

ViewPoint: Schools facing COVID-19 challenges

By Sam Miller, Chief Administrator, Cedar Rivers Area Education Agency
By now, everyone has seen the news headlines about the challenges schools are facing in preparing to return to school next month. How will students and staff be kept safe? Should face masks be worn? How will parents manage the logistics of virtual learning?
As I begin my 30th year in education, I have never participated in such a complex and continually evolving situation. As someone who has been meeting with 40-50 area superintendents weekly since mid-March, I can tell you that most of our meetings have felt much like a scene from the Tom Hanks’ movie, “Apollo 13.” Every possible idea is being considered and school leaders are relentlessly sharing strategies and resources. There simply are no easy answers.
School districts in Iowa were required to submit a “Return to Learn” plan by July 1 to the Iowa Department of Education but the plan really only assures that schools will prepare for three possible approaches to teaching including face-to-face learning in the classroom, virtual or remote learning, or a combination of both, known as hybrid learning. The real work is happening right now as school leaders work tirelessly to put final plans in place for welcoming students back. This work is being done amidst a backdrop of surging numbers of positive Covid-19 cases in many counties, at times conflicting guidance from key sources, and a growing political divide in our country.
Being on the “inside” of the work going on in our local schools, I ask that you offer your local school district some grace during this time. We have to remember that we are all on the same side – we all want what’s best for our children and students. And just like in the movie Apollo 13, we can be successful in this complicated mission if we stick together; we’ll need to because some of our most challenging days may still lie ahead.
Sam Miller is the Chief Administrator of Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA), based out of Cedar Falls, Central Rivers AEA serves 53 public and 19 non-public school districts in an 18-county area of Iowa. Learn more at www.centralriversaea.org.

ViewPoint: Rural location should not prevent business from receiving help

By Johnathan Hladik, Center for Rural Affairs
While states are beginning to reopen in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, businesses are still hurting.
They will be for some time.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress in March was a good first step in helping businesses overcome economic challenges.
Under the plan, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is paying all loans owed to agency lenders, including principal, interest and fee payments, for six months. This allows business owners to use money set aside for their loan payment to meet payroll, cover utilities, and manage unexpected costs.
Unfortunately, this relief effort left out small, rural businesses with loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP).
The Center for Rural Affairs has joined 64 other small business lenders in asking federal lawmakers to offer rural entrepreneurs an equal opportunity by including these same provisions in future legislation for business owners with RMAP loans.
Businesses with loans through RMAP have 10 or fewer employees, are located in a rural area, and have been unable to secure funding through the SBA due to an absence of local lenders or a lack of credit. Many are in the service industry—retail, restaurants, and salons—and are especially vulnerable today.
This policy has the potential to keep more than 1,000 entrepreneurs in business—real men and women on the streets of rural America who deserve to be treated equally. We urge Congress to move swiftly and address this oversight in any forthcoming legislation.

ViewPoint: Early ACCESS: being a baby is hard work

Early ACCESS: being a baby is hard work
By Gina Greene, Central Rivers Area Education Agency
You don’t have to be a child development expert to give a child a great start in life. In fact, it’s surprisingly simple – and fun. The first three years of life are a period of amazing growth in all areas of a baby’s development. Children are learning through everything they do. Providing a child with positive experiences can make all the difference for their future. Having safe and loving relationships and spending time with family and friends – playing, singing, reading and talking – are all very important.
Healthy development means that children can grow to be the most that they can be. You can make this difference. As a parent, grandparent, or caregiver you are the most important teacher your child will ever have. No two children develop, grow and learn in the same way or at the same pace. However, children do develop in certain predictable ways. If you have questions or concerns, Early ACCESS, Iowa’s System of Early Intervention, can help. Early ACCESS provides resources, support and information to parents and caregivers to help children grow and develop.
Kids who hear more words spoken at home, learn more words and are more ready for school. Kids who are read to regularly between ages birth and five hear more than 1 million more words than those who were never read to. Read to your baby from the very beginning!
If you have questions or concerns about how your infant or toddler 0-3 plays, hears, sees, talks, eats or moves, contact Early ACCESS. There is no cost to you for Early ACCESS services and support.
You can follow your baby’s development. To see what they will learn next each month visit Month by Month Development on the Iowa Family Support Network website. To get more information about Early ACCESS, including statewide and local resources and regional contacts, visit the Iowa Family Support Network at http://www.iafamilysupportnetwork.org/early-access-iowa To reach someone for Early ACCESS information or a no cost evaluation, contact us statewide by calling 1-888-425-4371.
Gina Greene is the Early ACCESS Regional Coordinator for Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA). Central Rivers AEA serves over 65,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on Central Rivers AEA for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.

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