Funnel looms

We're a week out from the first legislative "funnel" — the initial deadline for bills to pass out of their respective committees. With so many bills up in the air, Center staffers Sheila Hansen, Mary Nelle Trefz and Anne Discher took to the postcast this week to give a status report on those we're tracking.

There are quite a few troublesome bills, including efforts to impose harsh working reporting requirements and remove requirements for important positions in schools like nurses and teacher librarians. But there are also some sources of hope — proposals that would make it easier for pregnant women to access health services and create a children's mental health system. 

For more detail, check out our bill tracker, which we update frequently during session. 

Vouchers threaten public education

School vouchers made their return to the state capitol this week. Similar to proposals from previous years, SF 372 would expand subsidies to private schools in Iowa by creating an education savings program. Tax payers would end up footing the bill, which could cost over $100 million per year, in addition to funds already being directed to private schools.

This proposal does much more harm than good — and puts many of Iowa's already struggling public schools in financial jeopardy. Because children using the grants would no longer be enrolled in their local public schools, those districts would no longer receive per-pupil state funds for those students. Vouchers often leave districts with the same overall operating costs but fewer dollars to pay for them.

Voucher payments often do not cover the entire cost of tuition or mandatory fees at private schools. Thus, families with the money to cover the rest of the cost are most likely to use them, leaving out low-income families. They are also likely of little use to families in the 242 (of 330) Iowa public school districts that have no private schools in their borders.

Finally, unlike public schools that are required to educate all students, private schools have the option of deciding what type of student they serve. A private school could take taxpayer money and also deny admission to almost any student it chooses based on gender, disability, religion, national origin, economic background, English proficiency, failure to test at grade level or history of behavior problems.

This fundamentally goes against the purpose of public funds — to support institutions that are accessible to all Iowans.

The bill passed out of subcommittee this week, but it is unclear how much support it has in the full legislature. We will continue to closely monitor this harmful piece of legislation and remind legislators that a strong public education system is the best way forward for Iowa students.

Our friends at Iowa Policy Project have done extensive work on this topic, especially around its impact on taxpayers. Check out their recent blog post and fact sheet on school vouchers. 


Iowans support mental health screenings

More than 3 in 4 Iowa adults support a universal screening program to identify mental health issues in children. According to a new Iowa Poll, 77 percent favor a proposal that would implement regular screenings for kids, with an opt-out option for parents. Only 15 percent oppose the idea; 8 percent said they're unsure.

Strong public support for health screenings is encouraging. We know regularly screening for mental and physical health issues is good for Iowa kids — and helps prevent health complications later in life. We encourage our state legislators to prioritize these smart — and popular — policies as they work on children's mental health and education. 


Bill tracker

Want to go deeper? Curious about the status of key bills? The Center maintains a bill tracker to outline the specific legislation we are following this this session. 

Find your legislator

Not sure who represents you? With 50 senators and 100 representatives, it can be hard to keep tabs. Visit our Legislator Lookup tool to find out who represents you in the state house and senate, biographical information about each one and a link to their legislative websites, which list contact information and committee membership. All you need to do is enter your home address and zip code. 

505 5th Ave., Ste. 404
Des Moines, IA 50309
(515) 280-9027 /

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