This has been an interesting week in the Iowa Senate. There has been an attitude of peaceful co-existence between the two parties in the Senate this session. That is, until Tuesday when two Senators engaged in a shouting match, both calling a point of order and narrowly avoiding coming to blows. The most interesting part in all this was that the bill being discussed was passed 48-0.
A bill has passed out of the House that would legalize the use of suppressors on firearms. A suppressor is a device that greatly reduces the noise produced by a firearm, but certainly does not make it silent. Many other states allow suppressors on firearms and it would be a great help to those who enjoy shooting recreationally and competitively. Please consider contacting Majority Leader Gronstal and encouraging him to bring this to vote in the Senate.
In the past few weeks, many students from District 4 have visited the Capitol. On Thursday, a group of seniors from Algona’s Bishop-Garrigan High School visited with me about Student Tuition Organizations and Educational Savings Accounts. STOs provide an avenue for corporations or relatives of a student to receive a tax credit for money they contribute to be used for private school tuition. Last year, we raised the cap on the amount that could be contributed statewide from $7.5 million to $12 million. We should be looking at raising that cap again. Educational Savings Accounts would provide some state dollars to follow a student when they opt for an education outside of the public system. This idea did not make it out of committee in time to be considered this year.
Common Core educational standards have been the center of much controversy in the Capitol. I find many citizens know very little about the Common Core. Here are a few things the Common Core would do: First, it would increase the centralization of control over education, contributing to the loss of local control. It puts the control over the standard into the hands of distant, unelected, anonymous and unaccountable private interests in Washington. Secondly, nothing may be subtracted from these standards and no more than 15 percent may be added. Lastly, Common Core mandates teaching based on “outcome-based” education, which tends to promote mediocrity.
One of the benefits of Common Core I’ve heard from school administrators in my district is that all students in the state would be learning the same thing at approximately the same time. This would make movement between districts much simpler. Another thing I’ve heard from them is we can’t legislate school improvement. The best things happen when control is local, the worst when control is federal. In my opinion, the State has moved too fast to adopt Common Core and it would be good to step back and take another look at this.
Another frequent question I get on education is about funding. Why can’t the legislature set the budget for school funding in the first 30 days of the session like we should? I think the real answer is that government has a problem with priorities. I believe education is important and we should set that budget along with healthcare and transportation at the beginning of the session and then decide how to use the rest of the funds. The truth is most legislators have a program that they want to be fully funded so they want that done before we get to the real essentials.
I have enjoyed visiting with many of you and look forward to seeing those who are planning to visit the Capitol. I will be having a forum in Algona on March 29, 10 a.m. at the library. I hope to attend the National Rifle Association banquet that evening at Duncan Hall in Duncan. Please contact me with any questions or concerns at 641-430-0424 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.