116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
There hasn’t been much activity in recent weeks at the Iowa Statehouse. Republicans who run the House and Senate have been seeking elusive agreements on multiple issues, holding up the completion of work on the state budget and adjournment for the year.
Senate Republicans approved legislation providing scholarships to private school students that would siphon $79 million from public school funding. That after providing Iowa’s public school districts with just a 2.5 percent increase in state funding. Republicans in the House are leery of the scholarship idea, pushed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, so the bill is stuck without enough support for passage.
Connected to the scholarship debate is a mandate that schools post classroom curriculum materials and a list of library books online. The more stringent Senate version would require schools to post all classroom materials twice yearly while threatening to cut funding for schools that don’t comply. It’s an unfunded mandate, which nonpartisan budget analysts say will cost districts $16.4 million. Never mind that parents already have the ability to seek such information.
Lawmakers also are seeking a deal on legislation that would cut unemployment benefits to jobless Iowans and create rules accelerating a timeline for forcing them to take lower paying jobs. Also still unfinished is a bill that would mandate that all fuel retailers in Iowa sell E15 ethanol blended gas.
Looking at this stack of unfinished business, our advice is simple. Finish the budget and go home.
For starters, these are bad ideas. Taking public funds needed for public schools and giving those dollars to private schools breaks faith with Iowa’s long tradition of valuing public education. It does nothing to improve public education or to help cash-strapped rural districts. As we indicated, transparency is possible now, without a costly mandate.
The session-long attack on public schools, from allegations that educators have a “sinister agenda” promoting “obscene” books and claims that schools are centers of Marxist indoctrination has added a dark chapter to Iowa’s legislative history. It’s time to close the book.
Unemployed Iowans are not relaxing in hammocks as the governor argues. Cutting benefits helping struggling Iowans stay afloat is a cruel brand of economic policy. Republicans who once scoffed at government mandates should reject the ethanol edict.
Also, if deals are made on these issues, it’s likely they’ll emerge from closed-door negotiations involving a handful of lawmakers and will be put to a vote before affected Iowans can react. Republicans have used these sort of last-minute surprises in recent years to deny health care to transgender Iowans, restrict voting and ban school mask mandates amid a pandemic.
It's an irresponsible way to govern, and Republicans should reject it this time. Finish the budget, go home and let the election campaign begin.
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