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Lawmaker: Regents’ Request for 4-Percent Budget Increase “Optimistic” PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Thursday, 22 September 2011 10:27

The Iowa Board of Regents voted unanimously Tuesday for a budget that seeks a 4-percent increase for Iowa’s three state universities in Fiscal Year 2013, but at least one key lawmaker called the request “optimistic.”

“A 4-percent increase would require us to short other areas,” said Iowa House Education Chair Greg Forristall (R-Macedonia), who’s also a member of the legislature’s Education Appropriations Subcommittee. “That would be a pretty optimistic request.”

But state Senator Brian Schoenjahn (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, was more receptive to the proposal, especially in light of increasing student debt.

Dandekar: Resignation from Iowa Senate Wasn’t to Get Back at Gronstal PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Wednesday, 21 September 2011 12:05

The battle for control of the Iowa Senate got underway Monday, with Republican Mary Rathje announcing her candidacy for a vacant Senate seat and a gay-rights group emphasizing the importance of the November 8 special election.

“This is it. We are facing a special election, and marriage equality hangs in the balance,” wrote Troy Price, executive director of One Iowa – the state’s largest gay-rights advocacy group – in an e-mail to supporters. “If we lose the seat, we face a very real chance that a marriage ban will pass a vote in the Senate. In Iowa, marriage has never been threatened like this before.”

Swati Dandekar (D-Marion) resigned Friday from the Iowa Senate to take a $137,000-a-year job with the three-member Iowa Utilities Board, which regulates Iowa’s utilities. The move threatens Democrats’ majority in the Iowa Senate, now reduced to 25-24.

The turn of events is key, because Democrats’ slim majority in the Iowa Senate prevented passage this year of Republican priorities ranging from a public vote on same-sex marriage to sweeping property-tax reform to a bill that Democrats criticized as bringing an end to collective bargaining.

Lawmakers, Teachers’ Union Blast Idea of Putting Non-Teachers in the Classroom PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Thursday, 15 September 2011 08:21

People who were not trained to be teachers but have at least five years of work experience could get approval to teach high school in shortage areas such as math and science under a proposed new state rule.

“This is a last-minute, emergency-type situation. This is not what we would consider normal procedure,” George Maurer, executive director of the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (which handles teacher licensure), told a panel of lawmakers.

But the idea was blasted Tuesday by the state teachers’ union, which said the move would substantially lower standards for teachers who must understand how youth learn, how to manage a classroom, and how to put together a lesson.

“It is a significant departure from the expectations that we have had for licensed teachers that we have put in front of our public-school children here in the state of Iowa,” said Christy Hickman, staff counsel of the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), which represents more than 34,000 educators. “This is going to be the first time that we are allowing non-educators to teach very high-level courses to our kids. ... They shouldn’t have to be guinea pigs for three years.”

The rule proposed by the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners received an initial review Tuesday by the legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee. Under the rule, school districts that have unsuccessfully tried to hire a fully licensed teacher instead can hire someone with experience working in math, chemistry, physics, biology, foreign language, or music.

Iowans Struggle with Open Records, from City Hall to Governor’s Office PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Thursday, 08 September 2011 05:26

(Editor’s note: This opening section of this article links to other stories on this topic. All the articles can be found here.)

Residents of Riverdale successfully sued their city three times after being denied access to public records and meetings, and now have a case before the Iowa Supreme Court.

The Ottumwa school board recently went into closed session to interview three finalists for school superintendent, leading to distrust among some residents who questioned whether the selection process was fair.

And Erich Riesenberg, 41, of Des Moines said he can’t get information about stray pets taken into the city’s animal-control unit, now that the shelter is operated under contract by the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, the state’s largest not-for-profit animal shelter.

In battles statewide, Iowans are fighting for access to government meetings and records. While state and federal right-to-information laws are on the books to help, Iowans say they’re still running into roadblocks.

Decrease in Stimulus Money Blamed for Iowa Closures, Layoffs PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Wednesday, 07 September 2011 12:29

While Iowa Democrats point to the irony of the state’s job-finding agency issuing pink slips to its own workers, Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert says the move isn’t surprising.

“Ironically, when these one-time [federal] funds to stimulate the economy were injected into Iowa’s economy, Workforce Development hired about 100 people, knowing that those funds were [only for] 12 to 18 months,” Wahlert said September 6 in an interview with

Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) in late August closed 31 part-time field offices intended to help unemployed Iowans find jobs, and on September 1 laid off 47 people who worked in those offices. Another five offices – including in Clinton and Muscatine – will close October 31, leaving another 30 people without jobs.

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