This week brought more good news related to Iowa’s fiscal situation. The top reason I hear for slashing funding for preschool is the state’s supposed dire economic picture. The facts just don’t support that claim.
Creighton University recently released results of its survey of business managers. The results showed Iowa’s economic growth “above neutral” for the 14th straight month. The survey also showed manufacturing and new hiring growth. The Iowa Business Council also released its Overall Economic Outlook Survey Index (OSI) Tuesday. The OSI rose to 66.7, the highest mark ever for the measure. The Sales Index was also at an all-time high and the Capital Spending and Employment Indices were significantly higher than one year ago at this time.
The nonpartisan Legislative Service Agency announced Tuesday that state tax receipts continue to exceed revenue estimates through the first eight months of the fiscal year. Iowa’s general fund receipts grew 6 percent through the end of February, exceeding the 3.9 percent estimate by the Revenue Estimating Conference for fiscal year 2011. If revenues continue on this pace for next four months, the state will collect $74 million more than projected (Iowa’s quality-driven, results-based preschool program costs $70 million).
The State budget remains in strong financial position with a projected ending balance exceeding $400 million and more than $437 million in the state reserve accounts. The nail in the coffin of “the fiscal sky is falling” theory is House Republicans’ approval of a $700 million tax cut earlier this year after rejecting my proposal of a $630 million tax cut for all Iowans with enough money held back to fund preschool.
Two visitors to the Capitol this week reminded me about one of the strengths of the current preschool program. Joe Wolf and Julie Ebertsch from St. Matthew’s preschool talked with me about the successes kids in their preschool are having because of the school’s partnership with the Cedar Rapids Community School District. St. Matthew’s is one of many private partners in school districts across the state making high-quality preschool available to 20,000 Iowa kids.
On to the update…
In This Issue
1. House Preschool Proposal Slashes $445,000 for Cedar Rapids Kids
2. Public Hearing Scheduled on Bill to End Collective Bargaining Rights
3. Linn County Takes Natural Resource Funding Cut
4. Capitol Visits
House Preschool Proposal Slashes $445,000 for Cedar Rapids Kids
Details are slowly coming to light regarding House Republicans’ plans to get rid of Iowa’s quality-driven, results-based voluntary preschool program. The plan slashes $445,000 for preschool in Cedar Rapids alone. Over 125 current preschoolers in Cedar Rapids would be denied access using a per-pupil calculation. This does not take into consideration the proposal’s requirement school districts administer a new funding program which would take dollars away from opening spots for kids.
There is a misconception the current voluntary preschool program pays for a full day of instruction for each child. Iowa’s program pays for only two hours of instruction by a certified teacher each day. The rest of the day is paid for by the child’s parents, school districts, community empowerment boards or some combination thereof. The strength of the partnerships created between school districts, private providers and parents to deliver high-quality instruction provided by a certified teacher with access to top-notch professional development would be wiped away should the Republican proposal become law.
Public Hearing Scheduled on Bill to End Collective Bargaining Rights
There is a public hearing scheduled for Monday evening on a bill that would roll back bargaining rights for firefighters, police officers, teachers and other public employees. The bill takes away some rights currently available to public safety and other public servants to join together and bargain with their employer. It allows employers to circumvent democratically-approved bargaining units. There is also discussion of giving the Legislature and/or Governor authority to veto agreements between public servants and employers.
I believe Iowans have the right to organize and collectively negotiate with their employer and oppose any effort to undermine their ability to do so. Firefighters, police officers and teachers are respected members of our communities and should not have their right to bargain rolled back. The public hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 7 beginning at 6PM. Folks wishing to speak should call the Legislative Information Office at 515-281-5129 or e-mail written testimony to the to email@example.com with “testimony” in the subject line.
Linn County Takes Natural Resource Funding Cut
The Agriculture & Natural Resources budget approved last week in subcommittee cuts Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) funds by nearly a third. Since the inception of the REAP program in 1989, Linn County has received $1.8 million that it used to complete projects totaling $3.9 million. Projects at Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center, Pinicon Ridge Park, Hitaga Sand Ridge Preserve and Squaw Creek have been funded with REAP matching dollars.
The budget is now eligible for consideration by the full House Appropriations committee.
Monday I had the opportunity to chat with Linn County Treasurer Sharon Gonzalez. Joe Wolf and Julie Ebertsch from St. Matthew’s Preschool visited on Tuesday. Aaron Saylor came to the Capitol on Wednesday along with Sam Lovan and Robert Purdy. I spoke with Karl Cassell, Bob Carlson and Steve Dolezal from Metro YMCA and Dan Biechler and Dennis Goemaat from Linn County Conservation. Tom Hobson, Ralph Russell, Steve Ovel, Sara Mentzer, Nancy Quellhorst and Rebecca Neades were in Des Moines for the Iowa Chamber Alliance Dinner. Dr. Chris Blake, President of Mt. Mercy, was also in Des Moines Wednesday.
Enjoy the weekend!