February 28, 2020

    Bill Aims to Get More Iowa Students into Teaching Programs
    Accurate Census Count Important for State Programs
    House Committee Advances Bottle Bill Modernization
    Memorial Day Camping in State Parks
    Flu Rates Continue to Climb in Iowa

    Bill Aims to Get More Iowa Students into Teaching Programs

    Since 2012, Iowa has required students entering a teacher preparation program to pass an entrance exam on content knowledge. There have been concerns raised that standardized entrance exams are a barrier to applicants, and even greater concerns that the tests restrict the racial or ethnic diversity of the teacher candidates.

    The Iowa House has now passed a bill that allows teacher preparation programs the option of having the Praxis I or other teaching entrance exams. If they choose to keep their entrance exam, they would have to report on the results.

    There is a nationwide trend of fewer people going into teaching. Iowa is a part of that discouraging trend. In Iowa, since 2009, there has been a 38% drop in those enrolled in teacher preparation programs, and 11% drop in those completing programs according to the Department of Education.

    There are several reasons why fewer people are getting into teaching. This includes, Iowa’s teacher pay ranking which is 20th in the country, as well as the elimination of collective bargaining rights. Low K-12 school funding has also increased class sizes that help create discipline issues, lowered course offerings, and has provided less supports for teachers. However, this bill is seen as a positive way to gain more teacher applicants that could enter the teaching profession.

    Accurate Census Count Important for State Programs

    Once every ten years, the nation counts the number of people living in the country. As the calendar turns to the year 2020, Iowa is gearing up for the upcoming effort through the U.S. Census Bureau. At the end of October, the state created the Complete Count Committee to increase awareness among Iowans about the importance of the census.

    This past week an Iowa House Sub-Committee passed an appropriation to help counties with their count numbers. The money will go towards helping combat misinformation and stressing the importance of partaking in the census count.

    It is important to get an accurate count as the population data helps determine how many seats Iowa has in the United States House of Representatives, as well as re-drawing boundaries for state lawmakers, county officials, and other local governments. Iowa is one of just two states nationally that uses a unique non-partisan redistricting process. After receiving the census data in early 2021, the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency will use the information to re-draw lines and make sure there is equal representation in the Iowa Legislature.

    According to the US Census Bureau, billions of dollars in federal funds Iowa receives every year are also based off of census information. In 2016 alone, Iowa received $8.8 billion through 55 different federal programs that used data from the 2010 census, including Medicaid, student loans, housing, the nutrition assistance for kids, and special education grants.

    Now Hiring Census Workers

    The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting hundreds of people for temporary jobs across Iowa. Those interested can apply to be a temporary part-time position with the 2020 Census. The deadline for applications is March 9 and more information can be found at: https://2020census.gov/en/jobs.html.

    House Committee Advances Bottle Bill Modernization

    On a bi-partisan vote, an Iowa House Committee has approved a plan to modernize Iowa’s bottle bill.

    Iowa’s bottle bill was passed in 1979 to reduce litter by recovering more beverage containers and to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills. Iowa’s estimated recovery rate for beverage containers is 71%, compared to a national return rate under 30%.

    The law requires a 5˘ deposit be paid by consumers when purchasing beer, soft drinks, wine, alcoholic liquor, mineral water, and soda water. The deposit is returned when the consumers return the empty containers.

    This updated proposal of the bottle bill requires the dealer to pay a 1˘ handling fee per container to the distributor at the time of delivery. The legislation also increases the handling fee from 1˘ to 2˘ for a dealer, participating dealer, dealer agent, or redemption center to charge.

    The proposal puts in place a ten-mile radius that a dealer or redemption center must be within, in order for a grocer to not take the cans.

    The legislation now moves to the full House to be considered.

    Memorial Day Camping in State Parks

    Reservations for Memorial Day camping in state parks are now open. Campers can make reservations online and can be made up to three months in advance. Dates after Memorial Day will be available to reserve starting March 1. Prices for campsites range in price from $16 for an electric hookup site to $9 for a non-modern site. To find a list of state parks and reservations available, check out https://www.iowadnr.gov/Places-to-Go.

    Iowa Parks Centennial Celebration

    This year is the centennial celebration for Iowa’s state parks. Throughout the year there will be special celebrations at different parks. One of the special events is called 20 Artists, 20 Parks. The project is a collaboration between the Iowa Arts Council, the Department of Natural Resources, and Iowa State University (ISU).

    Last summer twenty artists from ISU, both faculty members and graduate students, visited the state park they were assigned to in effort to get to know the park and gather inspiration. Over the last several months they have each created an art piece to represent their assigned park. Starting March 16, the collection will be traveling around the state. This summer several of the artists will go back to the parks to lead workshops.

    For more information on 20 Artists, 20 Parks and to see the schedule for traveling exhibit go to https://iowaculture.gov/arts/get-involved/20-artists-20-parks?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery.

    Flu Rates Continue to Climb in Iowa

    Flu activity has continued to spread across Iowa, and has been associated with 29 deaths throughout the state. Nationally, this season has had the most flu-related deaths in children since the CDC starting tracking this numbers 17 years ago.

    The main flu strain this year at the national level is Influenza B. This is a change from previous seasons as Influenza B has not been the predominant flu virus since the 1992-1993 influenza season. In fact, this strain has only accounted for less than 10% of all flu cases the past three seasons. A 2016 medical study showed that influenza B strain was more likely to cause hospitalization from children aged 10-16 compared with those that had influenza A (the strain that is typically more prevalent) and is a strain that children are particularly susceptible to.

    In the midwestern states, influenza A is also being reported at high levels. Influenza A usually develops in about one to three days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include headache, fever, sore throat, cough, and body aches. However, there is still time to get a flu shot to help protect yourself against the virus.

    The flu vaccination can take up to two weeks to become effective. IDPH recommends that every Iowan over 6 months of age should receive the flu vaccine. It is especially important for some people to be vaccinated against influenza because they are at higher risk of developing serious complications, like pneumonia, if they get sick with the flu.

    For more information about Iowa influenza tracking and monitoring, visit https://idph.iowa.gov/influenza/reports.