Newsletter | February 5, 2021

To the People of House District 54

Education and child care were front-burner issues during Week 4 of the 89th General Assembly. I’ll provide additional details about each of these topics and related bills below.
Child Care

The House Economic Growth Committee this week passed two priority child care bills, making both bills eligible for floor debate. Each of these bills is one part of a legislative package to increase the number of child care slots to open, to increase the child care workforce, to provide incentives to develop new child care facilities, and to help hardworking families afford child care.

HF 3: Allows new or expanded onsite daycare facility to qualify as a project under the high-quality jobs program, which provides tax incentives or project completion assistance. 

 

HF 2: Creates tax incentives for developers that construct child care facilities. This includes both income tax credits, as well as sales and uses tax refunds. The tax credit is not refundable but is transferable. The program cap is $3.0 million annually with at least 60 percent going to small cities. This bill requires that a developer seeking a workforce child care facility tax credit must apply to Iowa Economic Development Authority (IDEA). Each application must include:

  • A resolution in support of the child care facility by the community where it will be located.

  • Documentation of local matching funds pledged for the facility equal to at least $50,000, or in the case of a small-city, $25,000 (could be cash, tax abatement, etc.

 
Education

Education Budget-

More than half of the state’s total budget is allocated toward education. Fifty-four percent of the total state budget funds public education; 80% of this funding is for Pre-K through 12 education. 

 

During a podcast on Feb. 3 with Simon Conway, Gov. Kim Reynolds said K-12 education funding has increased during the last 10 years. Republicans have passed teacher leadership and compensation, STEM, work-based learning, and extended SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education). Public education was last cut in 2010 when Chet Culver was governor and the Democrats held the majority in the legislature.

 
 
100% In-Person Learning
Gov. Reynolds on January 29 signed into law Senate File 160, which requires school districts to offer full-time, in-person learning as an option to parents. Schools have until Feb. 15 to comply with the new law. While schools still have the ability to offer an online or hybrid option, they also must offer an in-person option. This bill puts families and students first as national studies show not being in the classroom is leading to significant learning loss. Literacy screening scores have decreased 21% among Iowa first graders this school year. In December, Des Moines Public Schools reported that more than half of the students in its district were failing or near failing courses. 
 
Voluntary Diversity Plans
On Tuesday evening, the Iowa House passed HF 228. This bill removes the ability of school districts to deny requests for open enrollment due to voluntary diversity plans adopted by the school districts. There are currently five districts in the state with voluntary diversity plans: Des Moines, Waterloo, Postville, West Liberty, and Davenport. 
 
SF 159 The Governor’s Education Bill

Based on the emails I have received, it’s clear there is confusion about what is in this bill. Please understand that I have not yet taken a position on SF 159 because I am in the information-gathering stage. This week I read 51 pages and 54 sections of this bill, as well as attended an hour-long informational session that walked through each section of this bill.
 

I won’t pretend to be an expert, but I can clarify some misconceptions and highlight a teacher benefit. Section 1 covers Student First Scholarships, which are narrowly targeted to students in Iowa’s 34 failing public schools. A failing school scores in the lowest 5% of Title I schools on the index score for all students and/or has a graduation rate below 67.1%. This is a scholarship program, not a voucher program. A student’s family may use this scholarship, at their discretion, to fund educational expenses like tutoring or tuition. 
 

Section 36 of SF 159 increases the tax deduction for up to $500 for certain expenses that elementary and secondary school teachers incur. Section 39 was added for tuition and textbook tax credit: “Taxes shall be reduced by credit equal to 50% of the first $2,000 which the taxpayer has paid to others for each dependent in grades K-12 for private instruction.” 

 
Stay in Touch

This week on Monday I launched a “Looking Ahead with Latham” video update. I plan to post these short videos at the beginning of each week to talk about the issues the Iowa House will tackle in the week ahead, and then my newsletter will post on Thursday or Friday to recap what happened that week. 
 

The Statehouse is open to visitors, so feel free to stop by and say “hi” if you’re in the Des Moines area.

 
Last night I had the pleasure of meeting with Butler County Sheriff Jason Johnson at a legislative reception in Des Moines. I really appreciate everything that he and all law enforcement officials do to ensure the safety of citizens across Iowa.
 
Sincerely,  
Rep. Shannon Latham 
Iowa House District 54