The first week of the session reminds me of the beginning of a race, when the announcer says, “And they’re off and running!” This session begins with fourteen new senators, nine of which are part of the Republican majority. With 34 Republicans out of 50 senators, we have the first supermajority in 50 years.
The first week we hear from the Governor about the condition of the state. It appears the tax reform we passed last year has been working as planned, with our revenues decreasing only slightly. That means that increased economic activity is making up for the lower tax rates and reduced federal injections of money. In fact, Iowa was rated as the state with the most opportunity this last year.
We also heard from the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court about the difference our justice system makes in the lives of Iowans. I believe that we can truly be proud of a court that offers a balance of real justice and compassion to those in tough situations with the motivation to make their lives better.
Part of the Governor’s Condition of the State address explained her vision for school choice. Some of the motivation for this bill stemmed from concerns parents had after their child experienced virtual or hybrid learning and got a better look at the curriculum and content offered in their school. Parents said they wanted other options for their child.
The Governor’s bill gives parents more options by giving them the means to consider private, accredited schools as an option. Her plan would start with low income families with children in the lowest grades and over three years expand to all families with school age children.
Under this new proposal, when a student leaves a public school to attend private school, the public school will lose about $7600, but will receive $1200 to replace some of the overhead costs that did not decrease when the student left. The public school will also continue to receive the property tax revenue it currently receives. Critics of school choice say this proposal will hurt rural schools, but unless a student actually leaves that district, they lose no money. In the end, this is about providing parents the opportunity to choose the best possible education for each student.
Although there is a lot of preliminary organizing and pomp during the first week, we did get stated with subcommittees on Thursday. The first two subs I was on dealt with restructuring or eliminating county compensation boards. Those boards help the Board of Supervisors establish wage increases for county employees. I’d be glad to hear any thoughts about this issue.