Week Three was one of rushing to subcommittees and visiting constituents. I enjoyed talking with FFA students from Lake Mills, Algona, Belmond, and Forest City. It was great seeing the interest some of the students had in the process involved in making law. I am glad to see these students engaged in public issues at an early age and pray they will help responsibly lead our state in the future.
Education funding is always a big deal at the beginning of each session. The Senate is proposing an increase of $91.7 million for the coming year for K-12. That puts K-12 funding at nearly 43% of our total state budget. I am careful that I support funding that can be delivered. Every dollar promised since Republicans took the majority three years ago has been delivered.
Some have said we need more money for our schools, this increase is not enough. Iowa ranks 4th in the nation for increases in K-12 funding since 2011. More importantly for rural districts, we are prioritizing transportation costs and equalizing per pupil funding.
A portion of this school funding will go to a new method to help schools manage students with behavioral challenges. Currently, many schools will use what is called a “classroom clear”, when all the other students are cleared from the room while the student with adverse behavior is deescalated. The plan suggested and funded by SSB 3080 creates an incentive for schools to establish alternative placement options for students with serious behavioral issues. This comes with training and legal protection for teachers.
I am working on a bill to require written parental consent before a child can be vaccinated at school or daycare. I have met with constituents who have a difficult time with reactions to vaccination, some of which are genetic and passed one from one generation to another. For those kids, a vaccination can present a very serious health risk. The consent form would include possible adverse reactions to a vaccination, and the process for reporting an adverse reaction to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.
I was very pleased to learn this week that pharmacists are currently being trained on what various adverse events look like and how to report them. The sponsor for pharmacy students lobbying at the Capitol told me she had personally reported these adverse events. This is important so problems with a specific vaccine or even batch of vaccine can be isolated and steps be taken to resolve the problem.
An issue that concerns me is the special treatment given to males claiming to be female, or females claiming to identify as a male. Then schools are being required to allow boys claiming to identify as a girl into girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms. They also are allowed to participate in girls’ sports. This seems to be ignoring both safety issues and the fact that often larger, stronger, males competing in girls ‘events have an unfair advantage. I am exploring possible remedies to these problems.