This week was the second week of the legislative session. While it was shorter than normal due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 18, it was busy and full of subcommittee meetings as we start going through the legislative process.
Subcommittees are the first step in the legislative process and are one of the ways Iowans can be involved in the lawmaking process. Subcommittees have been different than usual this year. All Senate subcommittees are virtual for the legislative session due to the pandemic. Instead of large groups of people gathering in rooms throughout the Capitol, subcommittees are meeting via Zoom. Generally, the Republican members of the subcommittee will be in one room while the Democrat member is in another. The Senate pages, who are usually busy with work around the chamber, bringing in notes from visitors or phone messages from the Senate switchboard, now are helping us manage and run our meetings online. While it is not how we usually meet, it does have many advantages, one of them being Iowans who normally do not have the time to drive to Des Moines to voice their opinion on a bill can now do so from the comfort of their home.
If you are interested in a bill, please visit the legislative website, www.legis.iowa.gov, to find information on how to join these subcommittees. They are a great way to utilize technology during this time, maintain public transparency and move forward with this legislative session in a responsible manner.
Giving all Iowa students the option to be in the classroom
Iowa has a proud tradition of strong and effective public education. Last year Iowa was number one in average ACT scores, number one in dual enrollment and number one in high school graduation rate. In order to continue that strong record, Iowa students must be given the option of attending school 100% of the time in person.
When many students do not receive in-person instruction, their academic performance suffers. According to local news reports, 37% of students in Iowa City schools had at least one failing grade this fall. That number is nearly double the number of students with at least one failing grade in previous years. If students fall too far behind academically, they will struggle to regain the skills and knowledge they lost, and their future education and career opportunities may suffer.
Senate Study Bill 1064 addresses this problem by requiring schools to offer a 100% in-person option. This bill continues the waiver process if significant spikes of COVID-19 occur in the community or the school district is unable to adequately staff their classrooms.
A new Center for Disease Control (CDC) study states schools do not transmit the virus more rapidly than the larger population and transmission rates are significantly lower among elementary age students. This study is consistent with other studies conducted both in the United States and in other countries since the pandemic began in early 2020. This report states, “CDC recommends that K-12 schools be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures have been employed and the first to reopen when they can do so safely.”
For most students, the classroom is the place they learn best. Parents and families with health concerns will still have the option for their children to learn remotely. Iowa schools can safely be open for in-person instruction so all Iowa parents have the option to have their children learning in the classroom, recovering their lost time, and restoring their future opportunities.