I feel like I am back in school!

Over the past several weeks, the education committee of the Iowa House of Representatives has passed out a record number of bills to be considered by the full house for debate, 33 bills to be exact. WOW! That is a lot of education bills! Last year we voted out 28 total bills during the full session.

Many of you are aware of the high-profile bill HSB 713 (HF 2612), the reorganization of Area Education Agency (AEA) Services proposed by Governor Reynolds. This idea was presented during the Governor’s state of the state address on the second day of the legislative session. Since that time, all legislators have heard from constituents, school superintendents, AEA personnel, teachers, parents, students, grandparents, aunts, uncles and many people who have been the recipients of services from the AEA or who know someone who benefited from AEA services.

The main complaints are that the bill is moving too fast, with implementation by the fall school year; it is moving services further away from the students; the department of education would have governance control; AEA boards would be solely advisory; school districts could pick and choose the services they want or employ outside contractors making the AEA unstable by not knowing their clients each year.

A public hearing was held at the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Both the House and the Senate education committees passed versions of the bill out of their committees. We are looking at bills that are better, but they still are not great. This is the point at which we need compromise and discussion. We need to take an honest look at the AEAs and strive for improvement for our students. We need to have the stakeholders at the table not rely on an out-of-state report. We can make this better. Let’s hope we can get it done in a positive way.

In our first four days of debate, we passed 42 mainly bipartisan bills. These range from bills about open meetings, compacts for professionals from other states, protecting identities on vehicle registrations, waiving fees for veterans for starting businesses, reducing paperwork that is outdated and many more that help many Iowans.

On Thursday, we passed out of the House the Student Supplemental Aid bill to provide 3% new money to our public schools. The Democratic caucus proposed an amendment that would provide a 6% increase to make schools whole. The amendment was not taken, basically along party lines. I argued that we were giving $7,860 per student admitted to a private school. Remember, this is new money to our private school students!

The Student Supplemental Aid bill represents new money to our public school to provide services for nearly 484,000 students. This bill recommends an increase in new money for the public schools in the amount of $147,000,000. When you take that new money and divide out the number of students it will serve, the amount is $304 dollars of new money for each student in our public schools.

• Private school students’ new money = $7,860 per student.

• Public school students’ new money = $304 per student.

By passing this bill, using this comparison we are saying that private school students are worth over $7,500 more per student than our public school students. We are willing to spend 25 times the amount of new money on students attending private schools. They are worth 25 times more than the kids attending the public school system.

This makes no sense to me. We have given an unlimited resource to pay for students to attend private schools. But we are limiting the new money for public school students to $304 per student. Who has more value, the 16,750 private school students using the vouchers or the 284,000 public school students in our state?

Please contact me with any questions or concerns.


Sue Cahill, a Democrat from Marshalltown,

represents District 52 in the Iowa House.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today