Providing flexibility and ensuring safe schools

We had a whirlwind of activity in both committees and floor debate as we prepare for next week's second funnel deadline. We will soon have an updated revenue estimate so work on the next year's state budget will soon begin.

Over the last year, we have worked closely with local school boards and officials to provide them with more flexibil-ity over their resources. Each school district is different and has their own challenges as well as strengths. What works for schools in Des Moines or Iowa City don't necessarily work for Clear Lake or Hamp-ton.

This week, we built upon efforts from previous sessions and passed House File 2441 which provides schools with even more flexibility and local control. The bill makes a num-ber of changes to funds that are restricted to specific uses, creating new allowable uses for the funding and providing greater discretion for schools. By easing some of these re-strictions that are currently on these specific funds, more dol-lars will be freed up for schools to use in a way that best meets their needs.

Another important aspect of this bill is that it addresses school safety measures. We added an amendment to the bill that will allow schools to use some of these freed up funds to hire security personnel and keep student safe.

The bill also allows schools to be innovative by removing the Department of Education from the approval process re-garding At-Risk and Dropout Prevention plans.

Local school boards are better equipped to make decisions that fit their specific needs than bureaucrats in Des Moines.

Providing schools with more flexibility has been one of our top priorities over the last several years. We understand that a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach isn't always best. Increased flexibility will allow schools to make decisions that work best for their individual districts to best serve their students, parents, and teach-ers.

We are also continuing our work to renew the school in-frastructure fund, known as SAVE. The SAVE fund has been an important tool for schools as they upgrade their buildings to provide modern facilities, safe classrooms, and upgraded technology to im-prove students' educational experience.

Schools can also utilize the SAVE funds to make security upgrades to their facilities and improve school safety.

A subcommittee met this week and advanced the bill to the full Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

In other news this week, the Iowa House passed legisla-tion that requires more over-sight of the state's Medicaid program and holds the man-aged care organizations (MCOs) accountable. This will hopefully resolve many of the issues that both providers and patients have had with the new system.

I will provide more details on this topic in a future news-letter.

PS: With tax day coming up within the next month, I wanted to remind you to get those tax returns filed and also let you know that tax refunds may not come as quick as they did in previous years. A few years back, the Legislature required the Department of Revenue to implement anti-fraud measures so that Iowans tax refunds aren't stolen and the state doesn't pay out false claims. Last year, the Depart-ment of Revenue saved tax-payers $44 million by adopting these anti-fraud measures!

As always, please keep in touch. As legislation moves forward, feel free to send me comments, questions or feedback that you may have regarding issues before us in the House. I can be reached at or 515-281-3521.