The Dickey Dispatch – April 1st, 2022

by Senator Adrian Dickey

While this week there was a lot of activity and much legislation that was discussed and voted upon, I am going to focus on two things that I have received a lot of emails on this year: Bottle bill and school choice.

For years, legislation known as the “Bottle Bill” has been a recurring topic. Currently, Iowa law charges a deposit on many containers, like a can of pop at the grocery store, and then consumers can get their nickel back when the container is redeemed. The problem is redemption rates have declined over the years. Returning containers through machines at grocery store brings dirty cans into the places where we buy our food, and redemption centers are closing because the economic model built 40 years ago is no longer sustainable. These problems have left many consumers with no simple way to get their nickel back.

In recent years, there have been a number of proposals regarding the bottle bill, whether to expand the program, add transparency to the program, or eliminate it all together. Fact is, this law has been a huge issue at the Capitol for the past 15 years, but proposals would fail after not finding a reasonable solution between distributors, retailers, redemption centers, and the general public. The solution the Senate moved forward this week may not be perfect, but all would agree it is much better than the current system or the alternative of scrapping the program all together.

Senate File 2378 allows for innovative methods of redemption and triples the funding to redemption centers. This should open more redemption centers which adds convenience for consumers. It gets the garbage out of our grocery stores and alleviates their overhead cost for redemption, providing an opportunity for grocers to cut prices for consumers during these days of record high inflation. I guess after 15 years, the “perfect” solution that everyone loved was not to be found but this solution will be a great improvement!

One of the most dominant issues in government across the country this past year has been parental involvement in their children’s education. Recent elections have dramatically illustrated the desire for parents to be more involved in their local schools. It was not long ago the biggest threat a parent might have was if a certain teacher forcing their personal political views upon students. What I would give if that were the only issue today!

Today, parents feel their values are being attacked from every direction by the liberal left. They see critical race theory and its divisive concepts, sexually explicit materials in their children’s curriculum, transgender issues and forced acceptance, obscene content available to children in a school library, restrooms, and locker rooms open to whoever wants to walk in, or other stupid policies that hold no common-sense. When parents see some schools having parties for students when they become vaccinated or hear about teachers talking poorly of our great country, their mouths drop. They question how our educational system is helping parents when in the past 5 years there were 86 verified cases of sexual misconduct of teachers upon children in Iowa public schools. They question how their cries are being heard when they hear of a child who was raped by another student, but is not allowed to open enroll to another school? They feel prayer is the only option when a student is being bullied to the point of suicide and the school doesn’t intervene. These parents feel lost on common-sense issues and are demanding to have their God-given rights and responsibilities to raise their children in the manner they see fit.

Parents should have the right to know what is being taught and who is teaching their children. Parents should have the right to remove their child from any activity or material that they feel is offensive, sexually explicit, or undermines their moral obligations and beliefs. When a public school, which is an extension of our government, does not uphold these fundamental parental rights and violates that child’s needs, how are they held accountable? Wait for a few years for the next school board election?

Parents should be empowered to pick the best educational choice for their children. School choice for these financially disadvantaged children is what can fix this. Competition that arises from school choice drives both public and private schools to do better. In our own state we have seen the results of competition. ESAs do not hurt public schools. There have been 31 evaluations of school choice programs’ impact on public schools. 29 of these studies found that offering school choice improved the performance of nearby public schools. The 2 other studies found no observable impact, and no study has ever found that offering private choice academically hurts students who remain in public schools.

This week the Iowa Senate passed SF 2369 to empower parents and give them the ability to direct their children’s education. The first major policy initiative in the bill is commonly referred to as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights.” It guarantees parents have access to the curriculum, library materials, guest speakers, and other information related to the public education of their children. Sexually explicit material is more commonly available in public school and parents are becoming aware of it. Many parents want a clear and consistent path to address that material with the school. This bill provides that path. If the concerns parents have regarding their student’s education are not adequately addressed by the school, then parents need choice in education.

The second major part of the bill gives parents that choice in education. Up to 10,000 Iowa students would be able to utilize a scholarship to pay for private school education if their family income is less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level or they have an individualized education plan (IEP). This proposal gives low- and middle-income parents in Iowa the same school choice options parents with greater financial capabilities. With this bill all Iowa families will have access to school choice, not just parents who can afford it.

The state portion of education funding is approximately $7,500 per student. In this bill, approximately $5,000 of that amount is available in a scholarship for a student for private school education. The remainder is allocated to a special fund to support increased operational sharing functions. Operational sharing is a tool used by many rural districts in Iowa to share administrators and other leadership functions with nearby districts to meet the needs of the rural school at a reduced cost. One example of it in my district is the sharing of a superintendent between the Pekin and the Sigourney school districts.

This is not a bill to undermined public education. I went to a public school from kindergarten through my graduation at the University of Northern Iowa. I loved my public education and I love my local school. I support my public school and the teachers who teach in it, and I send my children to my local public school. That is my choice and I am able to make that choice because I have the financial ability to do so. However, when many parents discover that their public school system is failing them, they do not have the financial ability to make that choice for their children’s education. This bill provides them that choice.

In the past year I have spoken to many school administrators in our district. The fact is, school districts in SD 41 are great! For the districts that listen to the parents, follow the law, and educate over indoctrinate, the results of school choice will not hurt them. In SD 41, there are few private school options, and the bill only affects students whose family income is less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level or they have an individualized education plan (IEP). However the motivation of competition is there, and it will help keep schools accountable.

I studied this issue at great lengths, and one quote stands out: the public good is the education of the child, not an institution.
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Thank you for your time and thank you for letting me represent the great students, the great schools, and the great citizens in SD 41.
Adrian Dickey
Packwood, IA
Senate District 41

Posted by on Apr 1 2022. Filed under Politics, State News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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