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House File 103 – In-Person Learning
HF 103 passed on the House floor last Thursday. This bill states that schools must provide in-person learning as an option for parents that prefer this option, however, it does not eliminate on-line learning or hybrid options. The CDC published a report stating that there is very little evidence exists that schools contribute to the spread of Covid-19.  Cases among school aged children in Iowa have remained low. Transmission among students in Iowa schools is rare and infections most often occur between family members in the same households.  I appreciate that all of the schools in this district have done a great job of keeping kids in the classroom. Teachers are now eligible for COVID vaccination as of Feb. 1st.

Childcare
There are multiple House Study Bills and House Files in Committees right now that are dealing with the high cost of child care. Unfortunately, 81 Child Care Centers and 41 Child Care Development Homes have closed since March making it even more difficult for parents to find affordable child care for their family.
Income eligibility for the Child Care Tax Credit. This bill addresses the child care cliff effect which gradually increases cost sharing for families as their income increases. Sometimes, working moms and dads will pass up raises or promotions due to the all or nothing effect when it comes to receiving child care benefits.  This bill will incentivize them to accept higher wages because it will only affect benefits on a sliding scale instead of a cliff effect.
Another bill that will increase access to child care, particularly in rural areas, is allowing non-registered child care homes to increase by one school-aged child. Other efforts include tax incentives for developing new child care facilities. The lack of affordable child care in Iowa is hindering our ability to grow the economy. I believe that the state’s efforts to alleviate these problems will get more people in to the workforce, which is especially needed in rural Iowa.

ESAs and Vouchers
House Study Bill 159 passed the Senate floor last week. There are many parts to this bill, all that favor private education. The voucher program that is in this bill, creates concern for me, even though it does not affect area schools in my district.  It only affects schools that are identified for comprehensive support and improvement by federal guidelines. My concern is that if it were enacted in this area, public schools might be harmed by dilution of funds due to student transfers to private schools.  The bill also quadruples the tax credit for tuition and textbooks for parents, which I am in favor of.

Author: Brian Best