By Rep. Dustin Hite
The third week of session has wrapped up and it was a busy one. I had seven subcommittee meetings this week on bills in my committees. Specifically, I’d like to highlight House File 2022. This bill prevents county recorders from charging a fee for the examination and copying of public records that are necessary to complete and file claims for veteran benefits. I worked on this bill with Mahaska County Veterans Affairs Director Curt Grandia, and I chaired it as it passed through the subcommittee and full committee levels this week. I am happy to say it is on its way to the House floor.
Also, I chaired the subcommittee for House File 2068 this week. This is a bill that came from Marion County Attorney Ed Bull, and it deals with the Iowa Sex Offender Registry to provide more guidance to the court when individuals seek to modify their sex offender status. I believe it makes necessary changes and I am proud to say it passed through the subcommittee and is on to review by the full committee.
I have mentioned in previous newsletters how committed my colleagues and I are to providing adequate funding for our schools. Well, House Republicans released their education plan this week and state funding to local schools and state aid to schools will rise again. Our plan provides an additional $107.75 million in new funding for the 2020-2021 school year.
For supplemental state aid (SSA), the House plan provides a 2.5 percent increase next year. This increases state funding by $94.7 million, raising the state aid appropriation to $3.386 billion in Fiscal Year 2021. The bill providing this increase is House Study Bill 587 in the House Education Committee.
Additionally, we will continue to build upon the promise to help rural schools with additional funding for transportation needs. The goal has been to make sure that school districts’ contributions to these costs do not exceed the statewide average for transportation costs. With our plan this year, that goal is met. In the 2020-2021 school year, the state will contribute $26.25 million towards school transportation costs. This amounts to a $7.25 million increase in the state’s share. 204 school districts are projected to receive these funds.
This effort has resulted in widespread support from school administrators. Last fall Emily Piper, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of School Boards, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “This is really making a difference in how much (districts) can budget and how much money they can put into the classroom.”
Ensuring funding equity for every public school student is another focus of our proposal. Beginning in 2018, the state started raising the minimum per student funding level in order to close the $175 per student gap between school districts. Our plan calls for adding an additional $10 this year to the per student funding level. This will impact 195 schools throughout the state.
Both the school transportation costs and the per pupil equity funding are in House Study Bill 594 in the House Appropriations Committee.
Overall, our school funding plan means state funding to Iowa schools has risen $968.1 million since Fiscal Year 2011. That amounts to an increase of almost 40 percent over the decade, a commitment that shows Iowans that House Republicans have kept K-12 education as a central priority. House Republicans can also definitively say that they have fully funded every K-12 education funding promise we have made each year in the majority. K-12 funding has protected from any reductions during revenue downswings.
This week, I was able to meet quite a few people from the district. The FFA chapters of Pella Christian and North Mahaska were here for FFA Day on the Hill. Also, Marion County Attorney Ed Bull and Scott and Sandy Van Veldhuizen were here as well to meet about legislation. As always, please reach out to me at email@example.com if you are coming to the Capitol. Finally, as I am sure political ads have informed you, the Iowa precinct caucus meetings will take place this Monday, February 3. This means we will not gavel in on Monday, as we will be back in our home districts helping our local parties. But, we will be back to work on Tuesday ready to keep bills moving through the House.