Friday, March 5, 2021

Two of the governor’s education, public safety proposals falter in legislature

(Radio Iowa) - Key elements of the governor’s 2021 agenda have failed to clear the legislature’s first deadline for policy bills.

House Republicans did not have enough votes for state scholarships to cover private school expenses for students in 34 under-performing schools. Governor Kim Reynolds’ plan to make it easier to form charter schools, though, is eligible for House debate. It would let a school district or a group of people found a state-funded charter school.

“Charter schools gives parents and students another option. Students have different needs and wants and different educational settings fit different students,” Representative Skyler Wheeler, a Republican from Orange City, said during a House Education Committee meeting this week. “This bill simply provides the extra option to give our children a world class education and we all want that.”

Democrats oppose the plan.

“I’d feel differently about this if our schools were failing, but quite frankly they aren’t,” Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, said. “They’re doing a heck of a job.”

GOP lawmakers also failed to act on part of the governor’s criminal justice agenda that called for steps to combat racial profiling in law enforcement. Representative Jarad Klein, a Republican from Keota, said the House GOP’s bill was drafted after consulting with police.

“This is not the governor’s bill. This is our bill. This is the Public Safety Committee in the House’s bill that is meant to support law enforcement. I don’t know. There might be one thing that overlaps between in the governor’s bill and what we’re doing,” Klein said during a committee meeting this week. “I went to the folks that deal with this day in and day out, asking what we could do to help.”

The Iowa Legislative Black Caucus is calling on the governor to veto any bill on policing that does not include anti-racial profiling language. Representative Ras Smith, a Democrat from Waterloo, noted a Senate committee has voted to deny state funds to cities that reduce police and sheriffs’ department budgets.

“By excluding the anti-racial profiling language, by defunding local cities that seek to modernize public safety, including brain health professionals, I think our governor has shown they have no real intent to have equity and justice for all people,” Smith said during an online news conference.

However, the bill penalizing Iowa cities that might “defund the police” did not clear a House committee this week.

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