Misleading caller ID, education focus of last week

In spite of the cold and nasty weather, the legislature met in session every day last week. I continue to commute to the capitol from home most days, but as the years go by I find myself staying overnight more often in order to avoid driving when the roads are treacherous.

The focus now is on continuing to file bills and work them through the subcommittee process in hopes of getting them before the full committee before the March 8 funnel date.

House File 1 – I mentioned this bill in my earlier newsletter. This bill seeks to make it against state law to use false or misleading caller identification information, a constant problem these days. One of the benefits of filing such a bill is that it brings a great deal of information from the various lobbying groups to the forefront. In particular, national telephone companies shared with the subcommittee members what they have been doing to prevent this fraudulent practice. Considerable effort is underway within the Federal Communications Commission and the national telephone companies to develop software applications to block these types of calls. This practice is already illegal at the federal level, with some of the bad actors already being fined tens of millions of dollars. The telephone companies have asked that instead of creating a patchwork of state laws that are redundant with the federal law, we instead lend the legislatures voice to the national effort being undertaken by the FCC. Therefore, I have shelved this bill and am working up a resolution supporting the FCC’s efforts at a national level, joining other states that have issued similar resolutions.

One of the major topics for the legislature is education. Our education funding consumes nearly 55 percent of the budget which drives much of the discussion. House Republicans have made it a priority to focus on education issues that give the schools more tools and flexibility to innovate instead of simply focusing on funding. In 2013, the legislature passed the Teacher Leadership Compensation program that created a career ladder for teachers and a mentoring process. This program has been fully implemented and has been embraced by the teachers and administrators, they credit the program for improving the education process.

We’ve given the schools flexibility in spending funds that are targeted to specific initiatives, recognizing that not every school has the same issues. We’ve helped our rural schools get more money to the classroom by providing additional transportation funding for those schools that have the highest transportation costs. We gave our school boards and administrators considerably more flexibility in managing their staffs by making significant changes in the Chapter 20 Collective Bargaining laws. The result of these, and many other pieces of legislation has resulted in Iowa increasing the number of teachers by 3,100 since 2011, allowing the student to teacher ratio to drop every year even as enrollment numbers increase. Teacher pay has increased to an average of nearly $59,000 per year. When controlled for cost of living, this puts Iowa eighth in the nation for teacher pay. Iowa now has the highest high school graduation rate in the nation at 91 percent. We will continue to look for innovative ways to improve on that record.

One education bill that I sponsored again this year, House File 6, would eliminate “Diversity Plans” in certain school districts that restrict open enrollment. Statewide, there are five school districts that have implemented these plans, preventing families in those districts from open enrolling into other school districts of their choice. I believe that it is fundamentally unfair to the families in those five districts to be denied the right that families in over 300 other school districts have. I have high hopes that this bill will make it through the legislature this year.

As always, I can be reached at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov and at 641-750-3594.


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