More transportation dollars provide fairer school funding

Ragan Column: The Legislature has taken a small step in the right direction by passing $14 million in addi-tional funding to make things a little fairer for students, regard-less of where they live.

I preferred a more compre-hensive plan we developed in collaboration with the Iowa Association of School Boards and a bipartisan group of legis-lators. But after two years of negotiations, SF 455 finally has been sent to the Governor.

The bill reduces the gap in how much school districts can spend per student with the money they get from the state. Every school district will re-ceive a portion of this $2.9 million effort - either to in-crease school funding or for local property tax relief.

In addition, a new $11.2 million fund will help school districts that spend the most to bus their students. School districts in Iowa's small towns and rural areas are using more and more of their education funding to pay for transporta-tion. This translates into fewer dollars for the classroom.

The one-time investment by SF 455 will not eliminate the problem, but it does provide much-needed financial assis-tance to 140 school districts, making the amount available to educate our kids a little more equal once they arrive at the school doors.

10 good bi-partisan bills that are mov-ing forward

o Expanding Safe Haven laws (SF 360). Passed the Senate unanimously and is now under consideration in the House.

o Good Samaritan protec-tions for seeking emergency assistance for alcohol overdos-es (SF 415). Passed the Sen-ate unanimously and is now under consideration in the House.

o Guaranteed health care coverage for services provided over telemedicine (HF 2305). Passed the House unanimously and is now under consideration in the Senate.

o Requiring everyone with an OWI to get an ignition interlock and eliminating tempo-rary license restrictions (HF 2338). Passed the House unanimously and is now under consideration in the Senate.

o Guaranteeing health care coverage for spouses of fallen officers who were killed in the line of duty (HF 2351). Passed the House unanimously and is now under consideration in the Senate.

o Having every Iowa school establish a security plan to follow in emergencies (SF 2253).

o Expanding services for Iowans with complex mental health and substance abuse needs (SF 2351).

o Making our roads safer by expanding the Move Over, Slow Down law (HF 2304).

o Keeping anyone convicted of sex offenses off school property (HF 2276).

o Studying how best to treat sex offenders who require nursing care (HF 2345).

 We've all heard tragic sto-ries of failures in Iowa's foster care system. I believe we must do better when it comes to vulnerable children. Here at the Iowa Statehouse, I'm fighting against additional cuts to our number of state social workers.

Jennifer Boeding is doing her part too. She manages a special team focused on chil-dren in foster care. It is made up of doctors, nurses and so-cial workers at Blank Chil-dren's Hospital. Her team helps foster children get the mental and physical help they need to thrive. See what Jennifer had to say about her work at

In the midst of budget cri-sis, tax plan is bad news

It's been more than 80 days since we learned the state budget is $35 million in the hole. That problem has not been fixed, and work hasn't begun on next year's budget. Yet Senate Republicans insist on a tax plan that is expected to cost the state $1 billion per year.

This is fiscally irresponsible and sets up our state for an ongoing budget crisis that will sabotage Iowans' priorities. In fact, a nonpartisan analysis shows SF 2383 is worse than we imagined.

The truth is that millionaires and large corporations will gain the most from this legislation - and at a big cost to everyday Iowans. According to the Iowa Fiscal Partnership, the legisla-tion "would erode revenues, create structural budget deficits for years to come, and force cuts certain to imperil Iowa's basic infrastructure and tradi-tionally accepted responsibili-ties for its residents."

SF 2383 would harm Io-wa's economy because it's patterned after a similar plan that crashed and burned in Kansas. Fiscal mismanagement has created a crisis in Kansas that has caused massive cuts to education, public safety and other vital services.

SF 2383 does not make sense when you consider that:

o An ill-conceived proposal is moving forward to break a promise of tax relief for local Iowans (SF 2081). Cities, counties, townships and schools will all lose money they're counting on, an espe-cially devastating move for our small towns and rural areas.

o No changes have been made to the huge tax breaks for big corporations.

o Iowans are being forced to pay $1.75 million for a sex-ual harassment lawsuit that should be the responsibility of the guilty Republican State Senators and staff.

o The state continues to throw millions in taxpayer dol-lars at the Governor's Medi-caid privatization mess that still doesn't pay its bills on time and has jeopardized the health of vulnerable Iowans.

o College and worker train-ing, job creation, protections for vulnerable Iowans, public safety and justice for crime victims all face more cuts to bail the state out of its budget hole (SF 2117).

Sen. Amanda Ragan (D-Mason City) serves Franklin, Butler and Cerro Gordo counties in Senate District 27. She can be reached at 515-281-3371 or 641-424-0874. Email her at