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FFA members from across the state came to the Capitol this week to share their priorities for the agriculture industry and agricultural education in Iowa. Estimates indicate 500 students from across Iowa visited the Iowa State Capitol to meet with their legislators. I had the opportunity to meet with students from East Buchanan, Wapsie Valley, and Independence and learn about their issues and projects. Our FFA instructors and student members do a wonderful job in promoting the many activities FFA chapters participate in across Iowa and the nation.

Senate File SF 2190 drew some attention this week. It would allow older teenagers to roll out pizza dough. I never knew they couldn’t but evidently some time ago a legislative body determined it was not a safe job for teenagers. When I was 13 (1977) I was climbing ladders and walking on scaffolding for my part-time summer painting job for my dad, so this proposed change seemed reasonable to me. In the case of being able to roll out pizza dough, Casey’s General Stores was the rising force leading this bill, citing workforce shortages as the motivation. Convenience store pizza is a staple for many of us across the state. This bill also gives more employment opportunities to teenagers.

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Education issues were prominent in the Iowa Senate this week. One common theme in education policy in the Iowa Senate has been empowering parents in their children’s education. Last year, it meant giving all parents the option to send their children to school in person, full time, and ensuring the open enrollment law would mean true open enrollments for all students.

Workforce shortages are affecting nearly every industry and schools are no different. SSB 3067 expands the Teach Iowa Scholar program, creates an accelerated pathway to licensure for professionals, and increases school district funding flexibility for recruitment incentives. Over the last couple years, many Iowa families have seen the importance of having their children in school full-time and these changes will help Iowa schools ensure qualified teachers are there to instruct those students. In the 1920s my Grandma Franny taught grades 1 – 8 in a one-room country school near Winthrop. She attained a certificate from Coe College that took 2 years to complete. She spent as much time getting the teaching certificate as she did teaching. Back then teachers couldn’t be married so when she got married two years after starting, she had to quit.

I voted in our Senate Education committee to approve approximately $150 million of additional education funding for the next fiscal year. This continues to keep the commitment made by Senate Republicans to implement sustainable, reliable education funding increases. Over the last 5 years, every dollar promised by the legislature to K-12 schools has been kept. Sustainable and reliable funding ensures schools have the resources they need to prepare Iowa students for successful careers. This will be the sixth consecutive year I voted to increase funding for education. Even in my first year in the legislature in 2017, I voted to increase education funding when we had to de-appropriate all other departments. That meant we had to cut ever other budget to ensure education received an increase. K – 12 education in Iowa consumes nearly 44 cents of every $1 from tax payers, making education the largest portion of Iowans taxed dollars.

Author: Craig Johnson

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