Inside the Iowa House - Todd Pritchard, House Minority Leader - D-Charles City

March 26, 2021
Inside the Iowa House: Public Money for Public Schools

As the voucher bill has stalled so far this session, majority party lawmakers in the Iowa House are trying a different tactic to shift money out of public schools through a big expansion of Iowa's charter school law.

Charter schools are funded with public tax dollars, but are generally subject to fewer rules and regulations than traditional public schools. While Iowa does already have a few charter schools, the bill approved by Republicans this week would make it easier to set up charter schools and take away millions from public schools. 

It's worth noting that Iowa's public schools already have innovation and flexibility to improve student learning through our current charter school law. In visiting with the local school leaders in my rural district, it became clear to me there was little support for the bill outside of the special interest groups running the show at the State Capitol this year.  

There are several reasons why I believe this bill isn't good for Iowa kids. First, I am a firm believer that public money should be for public schools. Allowing the creation of charter schools, funded with millions of our public tax dollars without the same transparency requirements as our public schools, is bad policy. 

Second, these new charter schools would operate with no accountability to elected school boards or local constituents. The schools could be established by a group with no ties to the local community and without the consent from a school board. 
 
Finally, the research nationwide on charter schools shows these schools have failed to live-up to the high standards and expectations Iowa parents expect today. 

In the end, the new law just further stresses our already under funded rural schools by siphoning away critical resources. 

This bill is unfortunately just the latest in a string of bills this session being worked on by the Governor and majority party lawmakers that have negative consequences for our public schools. 

As I've said from the opening day of session, we should be working together to make sure public schools have the tools and resources to help kids make up for lost time in the classroom during the pandemic.
 
The good news we got this week is that President Biden is sending $775 million directly to Iowa schools from the American Rescue Plan for COVID relief and recovery. Those resources can be used over the next few years for schools to get kids back on track in the classroom.

It's the investment our kids need and deserve.

Feel free to contact me with your ideas by email (todd.prichard@legis.iowa.gov), phone (515-281-3054), or through social media (Twitter: @RepPrichard; Facebook: Todd.Prichard.Iowa).  I look forward to hearing from you.
 
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State Representative Todd Prichard of Charles City serves the 52nd District in the Iowa House and is the Iowa House Democratic Leader.



March 5, 2021 We just wrapped up work after the first legislative deadline, known as the funnel, which helps narrow down the number of bills eligible for debate as we get closer to adjournment. In my view, it was a mix of good news and bad news. First, the good news is that one of the top priorities in our COVID recovery Build Back Iowa plan was adopted by the full House. Senate File 364 provides $128 million in tax relief to Iowans and small businesses that have received COVID assistance. While the original bill from the Iowa Senate assured that Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans used by Iowa businesses to stay open are not taxed by the state, we added our plan from last month to exempt pandemic unemployment from state taxes as well. It'll be another boost for Iowans still trying to get on their feet after losing their job due to the pandemic. I'm hopeful the Senate will approve this bill quickly and get it to the Governor's desk. There were also some other bipartisan bills that made the first deadline, including: * Creating more affordable housing options (HF 582/ SF 295) * Expanding protections to prevent sexual abuse (SF 253) * Doubling tax credit for volunteer EMS/fire fighters (HF 563) * Tax credits and grants for business to build on-site child care (HF 606 / SF 176) * Capping cost of insulin to $100 for month supply (HF 263) * Encouraging more OB/GYN doctors to locate in rural Iowa (SF 129) Unfortunately, the Governor and majority party's agenda so far this session has been too focused on divisive bills that will make Iowa's recovery even more difficult. Lawmakers have been hearing more and more from Iowa business leaders who have deep concerns about several discriminatory bills that are making it more difficult to get businesses and workers to locate in Iowa. One business leader said the bills don't make Iowa look like a welcoming state to entrepreneurs who can work remotely and live anywhere. Another said Iowa lost three projects recently to other states and two specifically cited bills being considered at the State Capitol. With Iowa's workforce shortage and aging population, anytime Iowa lawmakers send messages that make Iowa look unwelcoming to others is bad for business and Iowa's future. We should be working together to make sure Iowa is an attractive place for businesses and the best and brightest to live. It's time for GOP leaders to take these divisive bills off the table and get the Legislature back to work on COVID relief and recovery. It's the best thing we can do to aid recovery in the short term and put Iowa on the path for long-term growth. Feel free to contact me with your ideas by email (todd.prichard@legis.iowa.gov), phone (515-281-3054), or through social media (Twitter: @RepPrichard; Facebook: Todd.Prichard.Iowa). I look forward to hearing from you. State Representative Todd Prichard of Charles City serves the 52nd District in the Iowa House and is the Iowa House Democratic Leader.

 

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