The House approved its version of the education reform bill this week. The amendment I developed to ease the way for districts to pursue more individualized learning was approved unanimously. The language would get rid of the requirement for districts to get an annual waiver to begin transforming their learning and assessment models. The amendment also asks the 28 districts currently using this process to develop model lesson plans, student assessments and professional development so we don’t have to keep re-creating the wheel.
There were a number of provisions in the House bill that would only serve to cement the current one-size-fits-all system. Everyone agrees kids should be able to read by 3rd grade, but mandatory retention because of an arbitrarily chosen score, on a particular test, at a particular point in time totally ignores the fact kids have different strengths and weaknesses and learn at different paces. The bill also requires more standardized testing, which drew a comment from Rep. Sharon Steckman with which I agree: we want our kids to have an education, not a test-ucation.
I am excited about the opportunity to expand more individualized learning plans and assessments. It is the first step in a long process to truly transform our education system from one based on a factory model to a flexible system that values innovation, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving. These are skills essential to success in today’s economy and we owe it to kids across the state to move forward on the journey.
I put together a video response on the education reform bill you can find here. I will also post my opening comments from the floor debate when they are available.
On to the update…
In This Issue
1. Good News for Iowa’s Economy
2. Protecting Older Iowans in Care Facilities
3. Help for Iowa’s Farmers Markets
4. Capitol Visits
Good News for Iowa’s Economy
Iowa’s economy continues to show signs of growth according to Iowa businesses and state workforce officials.
A survey by the Iowa Business Council showed an increase in expected levels of sales, capital spending, and employment for Iowa’s largest employers. Business leaders also expressed a more positive economic outlook for the next six months.
The Iowa Business Council uses information from its members when making its assessment. These factors (sales, employment, and capital spending) led to the most optimistic outlook since the first quarter of 2011. Capital spending showed the biggest improvement. The outlook for capital spending is better than at any time since the fourth quarter of 2007.
Unemployment Rate Falls
Iowa’s unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in January, the lowest level since June 2009 and sixth lowest in the nation. This is the third straight month unemployment has been below 6 percent. The 5.4 percent rate was down from 5.6 percent in December and 6.1 percent from January 2011.
Manufacturing continues to be a strong point in the recovery, adding 3,500 jobs in January. Manufacturing has added jobs for four straight months and showed the highest job growth of any sector. A total of 11,800 manufacturing jobs have been added since January 2011.
Protecting Older Iowans in Care Facilities
The Iowa House took a step to protect seniors living in a facility or assisted living program from sex offenders. Families and friends should not have to worry about the safety of their loved ones when they live in a nursing home, residential care facility, or assisted living program.
Notification to Residents and Family Members
The bill requires residents, family members, and staff to be notified that a person on the sex offender registry lives in the facility. Additionally, if a resident is admitted who is a registered sex offender, the facility must develop a safety plan for when the person is at the facility and outside the facility under the care center’s supervision.
Placement of Current Residents
Any facility may transfer a current resident who is a registered sex offender based upon the endangerment level of the registered sex offender. While Iowa currently does not have a specific place for older Iowans to reside who are in need of care and are a registered sex offender, the bill requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to secure an adequate public or private facility for registered sex offenders that need to be in a nursing home, residential care facility, or assisted living program.
The legislation establishes two workgroups to find a long term solution to this issue. One workgroup is charged with finding an appropriate facility for seniors who are registered as a sex offender and need medical and personal care. The other workgroup will work to ensure there is an adequate workforce in Iowa to provide needed services to people who have a history of committing sexual offenses and a likelihood of reoffending.
House File 2422 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Help for Iowa’s Farmers Markets
This week the House approved legislation I co-sponsored to help Iowa’s farmers markets. Farmers markets have expanded recently, both in the amount of time during the year they are open and the variety of products sold. The bill redefines farmers markets as a marketplace which seasonally operates principally as a common market for Iowa-produced farm products on a retail basis for off-the-premises consumption. This modernizes current law defining markets as principally selling only fresh fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the bill helps small producers selling at farmers markets by only requiring one annual fee per county. These vendors currently pay multiple times per year.
House File 2092 has gone to the Senate for consideration.
Charlie Litow visited the Capitol on Tuesday with the National Federation of Independent Business. Rick Benhart and Tim Meier with Collins Community Credit Union were in Des Moines on Wednesday. I also visited with Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek. Rick Dickinson and Mark Seckman with the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation and Teri Goodman with the City of Dubuque were also all in Des Moines on Wednesday.
Enjoy the rest of the week!