Newsletter for Thursday,
March 23 Tuesday was Homeschool day at the capitol. The building was filled with Homeschooling families learning about their Capitol and their government. I had the pleasure of meeting with several families from Tama and Marshall counties in the House chamber. On Thursday I was visited by a group of eight Foreign Exchange students and their coordinator Sharon Scherrer of Traer. This group of students are attending schools throughout Black Hawk and Tama counties, and come to us from Kosovo, Morocco, Bahrain, Kenya, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Armenia.
During this session the House Republicans have focused strongly on improving the viability of our public schools, not by simply throwing more money at them, but by making shifts in policy that will help our schools operate more efficiently.
Last week Rep. Dean Fisher (R- Montour) met with homeschool students from Marshall and Tama Counties. The group was visiting the Capitol to talk with legislators as part of Homeschool Day at the Capitol. Above are homeschool students from Marshall and Tama Counties with Rep. Fisher.
One of our first orders of business was to pass a $40 million increase for our public schools, and we got that done in the first 30 days. We also reformed the timeline for when funding is set. Prior law required school funding to be set 18 months in advance of the school year, whereas the new law requires the funding to be set the first 30 days of the session, less than 6 months in advance. It has become clear that revenue estimates are too volatile to set budgets 18 months in advance. This reform will give our schools the certainty they need in budgeting and the legislature more confidence that it fits within the budget.
Last Thursday we passed two bills that will give schools more financial flexibility. House Republicans recognize that no two schools are alike, which is why we passed House Files 564 and 565 to allow greater leeway in how local school boards and administrators use funds that are restricted for specific uses by the state. The uses of these funds were expanded, and if funds are unused they can be transferred to a new Flexibility Fund. Those funds are subject to approval by the school board before it can be diverted to other uses. House Republicans worked closely with the school boards and superintendents to craft these changes.
This week we passed a Home Rule bill that will provide school districts with greater opportunity to innovate. Under current law, schools have been governed under "Dillon's Law" which only allows them power expressly granted by the state. House File 573 will allow "Home Rule", the opposite of Dillon's Law, which allows them the power to exercise flexibility in areas not addressed in state law. Home Rule is already provided for cities and counties, so this is a well proven concept in our local government.
We are not done yet however, we have several more bills still in the works that address issues with our schools. There are inequities in the per pupil school funding formula that results in some school districts being able to spend up to $175 per student more than another school. We also have rural schools that have transportation costs that reach as high as $1,050 per pupil, while urban schools have transportation costs of a few hundred dollars. This means the rural schools have significantly less funds for the classroom. We hope to address these inequities as the budget allows.
Fisher 911 Bill
On Wednesday a bill that I had filed, House File 571, was brought to the floor for debate. This bill made 911 call and other call recordings to an Emergency Management Agency confidential if they deal with an adult's medical information, or if the call is concerning a juvenile, protecting this information from Freedom Of Information Act requests.
All other medical information for a person is protected under the privacy laws, and the fact that 911 calls were not was an egregious gap in that law. Also, when a juvenile commits a crime the information is confidential. It is only right that we also keep information confidential when a juvenile is injured or otherwise involved in an emergency. The bill passed the House 99-0 and now goes to the Senate.
As always, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 641-750-3594.