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Since the session began a few weeks ago, we’ve heard from lots of Iowans about the challenges they are facing during this pandemic. I talked to a small business owner this week who is trying to stay open, pay her employees, and keep them safe while business has plummeted 50%. I talked to a school board member doing all he can to keep kids and teachers safe in the classroom. I heard from a parent still trying to juggle schools, work, and child care.

The need for COVID relief and recovery is apparent. Last week, we offered a series of ideas to help Iowans get through this crisis called, Build Back Iowa. It outlines legislation we should pass to get students back to school safely, help small businesses, and focus on reintegrating Iowans back into the workforce.

Instead of working together on COVID this week, I’m disappointed that Republican leaders at the Statehouse decided to debate a host of divisive, partisan issues. They rushed through two extreme changes to the Iowa Constitution that have nothing to do with COVID. One measure takes away a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions and another would remove background checks while allowing guns in schools, courthouses, and other public places. 

In a razor thin vote, the Iowa Senate also approved a bill this week that would devastate Iowa’s public school system. It includes a voucher program that would shift money from public schools to private schools and would end up closing even more rural schools. 

On Tuesday, the CDC released a new study of in-person learning and updated their guidance to schools to get kids back into school safely. The timing was perfect as a bill was moving through the Legislature to get kids back into school safely. Since it’s a priority we all share, I was hopeful we could work together on a responsible approach because we all know in-person learning is best.

When the bill was brought up for debate on Thursday, we offered a simple plan to help schools follow the new CDC guidelines and re-open safely.  Unfortunately, Republican lawmakers decided to ignore the study and new guidelines. Instead, the bill requires all schools to offer in-person learning by Feb 15. 

While most schools are already offering full-time in-person learning, the Governor and Legislature should at least be giving schools the tools they need to enact the new CDC guidelines and keep kids, teachers and staff safe. 

Please continue to be engaged in the legislative process and contact your legislator to tell them your ideas on how to move toward recovery to get life back to normal again.

Author: Todd Prichard