Last week, we ended the 2015 legislative session and returned to our homes and communities.
The question everyone always asks is, “what will this session be known for?”
The answer is simple: shortchanging our kids in the school funding crisis that carried on for 477 days. That means larger class sizes and fewer opportunities for our kids next year.
For weeks, then months, the Republican majority in the Iowa House refused to resolve the school funding crisis.
Despite pleas from teachers, parents, administrators and even students, Republicans in the House stopped listening and rejected school funding compromises offered by Democrats time and time again.
While Republicans may think the crisis was resolved this year, it still isn’t over and the damage they caused will be long-lasting.
House Republicans frustrated superintendents trying to plan for the future and angered school board members who had their hands tied while House Republicans refused to compromise for over a year.
They’ve now managed to demoralize a whole generation of educators asking themselves, “Why did I do this?” I also fear they’ve convinced the best and brightest young Iowans to avoid the education profession all together.
Given the gridlock and record low school funding, despite Iowa’s strong economy, many Iowa educators I’ve heard from no longer believe that the Iowa House values their work in public education.
It will take years to rebuild trust with our educators on the front lines every day.
When the Legislature convenes again on January 11, 2016, House Republicans will have broken the law for 333 consecutive days by failing to set school funding for the following year. The first things Republicans should do is rebuild trust with educators by passing at least a 4% increase in basic state aid for our schools.
When we began this session, House Democrats promised to work together to strengthen Iowa’s working families and re-vitalize rural Iowa.
To that end, we made some modest progress.
We helped re-vitalize rural Iowa by expanding broadband to un-served areas and encouraged new development in rural communities. We passed a bill to add more value to the crops of Iowa farmers and create renewable energy jobs.
More of Iowa’s working families will benefit from child care assistance and Iowa seniors in nursing homes will benefit from additional advocates to ensure they receive the best care possible. We also worked together to protect victim of domestic abuse and expanding training to stop human trafficking.
However, House Republicans also turned back several ideas offered by Democrats to help working families:
- House Republicans denied 216,000 hardworking Iowans a raise by not raising the minimum wage
- House Republicans withheld life changing medicine to help sick Iowans by refusing to even debate medical cannabis
- House Republicans didn’t protect workers from wage theft or develop a paid sick leave plan for workers
- House Republicans refused to pass a bi-partisan anti-bullying bill offered by their own Republican Governor
In comparison to previous legislative sessions, this one does not measure up.
Until the next session begins, House Democrats will be out listening to the people of Iowa and getting ideas from them on how to make our state a great place to live, work and raise a family.