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In-person learning will determine funding

On Tuesday and Wednesday, there were more than 36 bills debated and passed in the Iowa House that were supported by nearly all of the House members. Many of these bills clarify language or help specific groups or events such as clarifying the title of music therapist or providing notification if fluoride will be discontinued from the water supply or making federal election signs use the same guidelines as the state. These are all important acts and need to be in the law. It was refreshing to see the bipartisan approval of so many things.

There were other bills that passed, but the votes were more divided and often across party lines.

The Supplemental Education bill will distribute a portion of $27 million based on how much in-person instruction school districts had during the first half of the year. The rationale for this division of funds was that it cost more to provide the 100 percent in-person learning model. The more time spent 100 percent in school, the more money allocated to the district.

Marshalltown offered 100 percent in-person instruction at lower grades and a hybrid model at upper grades. As a result, Marshalltown only qualified for funding for 45 days of in-person learning since the middle and high school students were in attendance only 50 percent of the time.

I argue that it costs just as much, if not more, to have a hybrid model. You have to clean the lunchrooms, classrooms, buses and bathrooms just as often even with only half of the students in the school each day. The districts with hybrid and virtual learning had costs for providing computer devices, internet hotspots and additional staff to meet the needs of these different learning platforms.

It made sense to me to distribute this additional funding according to the per-pupil formulas we use for other funding streams. It is not equitable to provide funds based on a district’s plan to keep students safe. It would have been more equitable to provide funding for all students in an equitable manner.

On a local note, my heart goes out to the family and friends of Michael Ray West, the employee of Casey’s who was killed this week. I am saddened that our community is suffering another loss. I appreciate our law enforcement and their work. Marshalltown is a diverse city and that is what I love about it. We know that most people in our community are good-hearted, hard-working and responsible. We are all hurting.

Feel free to contact me anytime at sue.cahill@legis.iowa.gov.

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Sue Cahill is the state representative for District 71.

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