News from Des Moines
This week the House passed the water quality bill the Senate passed last year. We were proud to get this bill through the Senate, but we know this isn’t the final step – it is just the first. The discussion about water quality in Iowa will be ongoing, but I believe Iowans also deserve some action. I’m glad we were able to do something amid continuing conversations.
One of the topics that continually surfaces in the legislative session is education funding. We plan to determine the amount of funding early so our local school districts can start planning their budgets for the next school year.
A large part of our state is rural and smaller communities. These communities have much higher transportation costs for schools than bigger cities and urban areas, like Des Moines. Senate File 455 was a bipartisan bill passed in the Senate last year to provide district cost per pupil and transportation cost per pupil equity among all school districts. The bill would help eliminate two of the most pronounced inequities in our public schools that are entirely related to where a child lives.
In our state, transportation expenses range from $41 per student to over $1,000, meaning there are much fewer dollars available for classroom use in rural areas. District cost per student inequities are as much as $175 per student among different districts, without regards to geography.
Under our bill, the statewide cost per pupil would be raised each year, after increases in supplemental state aid, to approach the highest district cost per pupil. After ten years the $175 difference will be eliminated, putting all districts on equal footing.
The bill would also create new way to address school transportation costs by creating a formula to determine additional funding for schools. The formula includes school district enrollment, a three year average of school district transportation costs, and the number of route-miles per pupil. This would mean over a period of ten years, we would gradually be increasing funding specifically for transportation costs. Providing transportation specific funding would level the playing field in the classroom and allow dollars currently spent to transport students to be used for classroom education.
We want to keep the equity bill, Senate File 455, as part of the discussion on education funding. This is how we can give all of our students the same opportunities regardless of where they live. We must fix the hole in the pocket of supplemental state aid (SSA) before Iowans drop anymore hard earned money into it.
This week our work was focused on moving bills through subcommittee. In these subcommittee meetings we discussed bills before sending our recommendations to the full standing committee.
Here are the subcommittee bills and their respective standing committees I was involved with this week:
• Tuesday: SSB 3016 – Judiciary and SSB 3044- Judiciary
• Wednesday: SSB 3032- Judiciary and SSB 3034- Judiciary
• Thursday: SSB 3061- Judiciary and SSB 3030- Education
I was the chair of the meeting on SSB 3030. This bill would allow privately instructed students to participate in Iowa Learning Online, if they paid the fee for the service. This bill unanimously passed the subcommittee.
SSB 3061 addresses insurance fraud and respective pecuniary damages.
SSB 3032 addresses allowing judges to issue a wiretap without a full hearing for cases involving felonies.
SSB 3034 addresses penalties of sexual predators and earned time.
SSB 3044 addresses mitigating damages available when the failure to wear a seatbelt contributed to the injuries claimed.
SSB 3016 addresses court fees in probate and would allow relief of tax burden under certain circumstances related to trusts and conservatorships.
State Sen. Jeff Edler can be reached at (641) 751-5902 or firstname.lastname@example.org