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Legislative session eyed by Union administration
February 11, 2020

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The 2020 Legislative session has begun in earnest and as always, school districts across Iowa will keep a sharp eye on topics closely related to their schools with the help of lobbying organizations. Each school year, the Board of Education at Union sets a list of priorities to take to these lobbying groups, such as the Iowa Association of School Boards, to advocate for necessary changes to a law or to keep current policies intact. The following are the four priorities set by the North Tama school board with comments from Travis Fleshner, Superintendent of Union CSD, and Emily Piper from the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB).

Supplemental State Aid

"Supplemental State Aid has remained a top priority for the Union CSD. We are entering the time of year when administration and the school board needs to make financial decisions. These decisions are made using several pieces of data, but supplemental state aid is a major driver in decision making."- Travis Fleshner, Superintendent of Union CSD

"For public education, the big issue will continue to be adequate and timely supplemental state aid rate and well as continued investment to reduce the inequities caused by transportation costs and the district cost per pupil inequity. IASB is advocating for as much funding for the SSA rate as is possible within the budget parameters set by the majority party." - Emily Piper, Lobbyist for Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB)

Mental Health

"Mental health is something that institutions across the country are dealing, we are not immune to this in rural Iowa. The Union CSD has made the choice to have a full-time guidance counselor in every building in our school district and supplement this support for students with therapists, counselors, and case workers from outside the district. There is no easy solution to "curing" mental health, but any state support for large or small program is appreciated." - Fleshner

"Mental health, and in particular, supports for schools who are struggling to provide the services their students need for mental health will also be a big issue in this legislation session. IASB members established four priorities for this legislative session (see link) but we will continue to work on a variety of issues to provide more flexibility and local decision making for locally elected boards".- Piper

Preschool Funding

"Research has shown us that early childhood is an optimal time for learning, Union CSD offers access to preschools located within both of our elementary buildings. Currently we operate a half day program and we would like to expand that program to full days, but the funding is only set for support of a half day program. We would like to see this funding and time increased, the benefits of expanding this program would be a game changer for education." - Fleshner

" IASB is working to expand access to the statewide voluntary preschool program by increasing the weighting to allow districts to expand opportunities like full day kindergarten, wrap around care, transportation and opportunities for 5 year olds if an optional or transitional kindergarten program is not available in the district. We know that early childhood education is the building block for a positive educational experience and want to increase those opportunities to ensure that every child can take advantage of these programs." - Piper

Vouchers

"Proposals for offering vouchers to non-public schools have been discussed in Des Moines, we feel that we need to proactive in monitoring legislation that devirts public fundings into non-public programs." - Fleshner

"Neither chamber has been able to secure the votes necessary to move a voucher or educational savings account bill. While that may not stop some legislators from wanting to have that discussion, we do not anticipate any serious action. Of course, we strongly oppose any effort to enact either type of private school funding and will vigorously oppose any such attempts." - Piper

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