By REPRESENTATIVE DEAN FISHER
This week, House Republicans announced a K-12 funding package for the 2020-21 school year that will provide schools with additional resources that they can depend on. Additionally, it takes into account many of the challenges that school boards and administrators have brought to lawmakers and targets additional dollars to address these problems. The plan offered by House Republicans will provide schools with an additional $108 million next school year, bringing total state investment in Iowa’s K-12 system to nearly $3.4 billion per year. The details of the plan include $94.7 million for Supplemental State Aid (SSA), building upon House Republican’s strong commitment to K-12 schools over the last decade. Also included is an additional $7.25 million to reduce transportation costs for rural schools and ensure no school spends more than the statewide average for transportation. This will ensure that more dollars make their way into the classroom rather than being spent to bus students to and from school. Also, the plan includes $5.8 million in equity funding to further reduce the cost per pupil gap by $10 per student.
This continues to reduce a long-time inequity between school districts that has existed in the school funding formula since the 1970s. The K-12 proposal from House Republicans fits within the state budget and provides schools with a reasonable increase that they can depend on. House Republicans have made it a priority to follow through on the commitments that have been made to schools and will continue to do so this year. Schools have never been cut under Republican leadership. House Republicans are well on track to setting school funding within 30 days so that school boards have time to plan their budgets for the upcoming school year.
Also this week, the Iowa Department of Education released the annual Condition of Education Report for 2019. Each year, the report provides a detailed analysis of where Iowa’s K-12 system is at in regards to a number of metrics related to students, teachers, and staff. The data shows that Iowa’s K-12 system is in great shape and getting even better. Since 2011, Iowa has added almost 3,500 new teachers to Iowa classrooms. This is in stark contrast to when Democrats controlled the Legislature and the state lost nearly 1,000 educators due to budget mismanagement and a 10% cut to schools. According to the report, the student-teacher ratio declined to 13.04 per student. This ratio has declined every year since 2011, even while enrollment has grown steadily over the same time. Iowa teacher pay continued to rise with the average salary coming in at $59,220. According to the report, the gap between national and Iowa teachers has been reduced significantly in recent years. Additionally, third party studies say that Iowa’s teacher pay ranks among the highest in the country.
On Wednesday the bill I filed to strike Gender Identity from the Iowa Civil Rights code was introduced. Iowans understand fairness, common sense, and biology. Democrats inserted Gender Identity into the Iowa Civil Rights Code in 2007 and I am worried about the unintended consequences that it has created. A woman athlete should not have to compete against males claiming to be a woman, and certainly women athletes should not lose out on scholarships or professional opportunities because they got beat by a male in a woman’s sport. Women should not have to feel as though they can no longer use a women’s locker room or restroom because of the presence of biological males. Our taxpayer-funded medical programs should not be forced to pay for gender reassignment surgeries. Our prisons should not have to house biologically male prisoners in a women’s prison facility. This bill corrects those issues. Unfortunately the chair of the House Judiciary committee has stated the bill will not be assigned to a subcommittee, effectively killing the bill. While I respect his decision, I think it is important that we start this conversation. I am confident my constituents are outraged by the excesses that including Gender Identity in the Civil Rights Code allows. I will continue to fight for fairness, common sense, and scientifically sound public policy.
On Thursday the Subcommittee met for House File 2004, the Rumble Strip bill, also known as Baylee’s Bill. This bill stemmed from the tragic loss of Baylee Hess at a rural intersection with US 30 in Benton County last Thanksgiving weekend. The bill calls for rumble strips at all of these county roads that intersect with US and state highways. Jade Ewoldt and Jasmine Gaston, sisters of Baylee, attended the subcommittee meeting and spoke about the need for this bill. The bill passed unanimously and now goes to the full Transportation Committee for consideration. Senator Tim Kapucian, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, will also be starting a companion bill with the same language in the Senate to expedite the process. I greatly appreciated Jade and Jasmine’s determination in seeing this through in honor of their sister, Baylee.
This week I was visited by FFA groups from the West Marshall and Green Mountain Garwin schools. It’s always fun to meet these bright young students and answer the questions.
As always, I hope to see you here at the capitol during the session. This is a beautiful building and well worth the time to visit and tour it. I can also have my clerk take constituents up in the capitol dome and out into the cupola overlooking the city.