Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Des Moines Register. June 4, 2021.

Editorial: Can Iowa’s GOP leaders please outline their vision for K-12 education? When pretty much anything is considered a school, it’s a free-for-all

Gov. Kim Reynolds should outline her vision for the future of K-12 education in Iowa. Republicans, who control the executive and legislative branch, should articulate their long-term plan for ensuring basic skills are provided to the next generation of Iowans.

It is no longer clear what providing an education means. It seems anything goes here.

Last month, Reynolds signed what she called “historic” legislation to expand the state’s charter school system. Charter schools are private entities that receive public money but are not accountable to school boards. They can seek waivers to be exempted from some state educational standards.

The bill-signing happened at the headquarters of a tutoring and mentoring program that has a one-year contract with Des Moines Public Schools to serve a few dozen kids. Leaders of the organization plan to apply to open a charter school.

We don’t yet know what exactly such charter schools will look like.

We do know the children who attend will take with them almost $8,000 in taxpayer dollars. That money will not go to a traditional public school.

Charters are another item on the GOP’s “school choice” agenda. Though Republicans expend lots of energy micromanaging public education, they perpetually insist families should have alternatives to it.

How many options are enough? And at what point do so many options become a free-for-all that undermines the concept of community-based public education, the bedrock of a literate, informed electorate?

Iowans are already awash in educational options for children.

This state has more than 300 school districts. Iowa’s open enrollment law allows you to send your child outside your home district — if the district you want to attend has space and accepts the child.

You can opt for a private school and even use your College Savings Iowa 529 Plan — originally conceived to help fund higher education — to pay tuition.

You can enroll your child in an online school operated by a for-profit company that partnered with a rural school district. You can live anywhere in the state and “send” your child to school on a home computer all day. Public education dollars will ultimately be funneled to the out-of-state company.

You have three options for home schooling under Iowa law.

One of them, Independent Private Instruction, allows you to entirely remove your child from any educational system. Parents can keep their own children home (and up to four unrelated children) without notifying anyone. No educator will ever visit the family. There are no assessment requirements. There are no standards about what should be taught. Cutting a pizza in half could be a high school math lesson.

Parents can simply say they’re exercising the Independent Private Instruction option and remove a child from school. Or they can say nothing at all. Kids are then prohibited from attending local schools for academics, special education and extracurricular activities.

Forget about pesky truancy laws, vaccine requirements, vision checks, dental screenings, standardized tests or teaching the alphabet. You won’t need the Legislature to ensure your child is not taught about Black history, because you don’t have to teach your child anything at all.

And now maybe there will be a charter school in your area.

In Iowa today, pretty much anything can be considered a “school.” Everyone’s mother or neighbor is considered a qualified home-school educator. An unknown number of Iowa youngsters have completely fallen off the education grid and may be learning nothing, assuming they are alive and well.

So the Republicans in charge of this state can stop talking about the need for more educational options. Instead, they can outline where Iowa is headed. What, exactly, is their end game?

They owe the public that explanation.

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Iowa City Press-Citizen. May 28, 2021.

Editorial: Press-Citizen editorial board endorses the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act

Most Iowans agree that climate change is real, is caused by human activities, and is causing more severe weather like flooding, drought and derechos. Many talk about the need for climate action but aren’t sure what is the best thing to do about it.

We need to act urgently to prevent the most severe consequences of climate change. Is there a single piece of national legislation that will effectively reduce carbon emissions, the primary cause of global warming and climate change? Can it do this without harming the economy or hurting the most vulnerable or those with the lowest incomes?

We are endorsing a bill that will accomplish these things: the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 2307) that has recently been re-introduced in Congress.

It is a form of carbon pricing which puts a steadily rising price on fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal at the source, like the wellhead or mine. This gradually rising cost of fossil fuels will drive down carbon pollution because energy companies, industries, and consumers will move toward cleaner, cheaper options. It accelerates the shift to green renewable energy and encourages technological innovation and large-scale infrastructure development.

The “carbon dividend” means that all of the money collected from the carbon fee is given as a monthly “carbon cash back” payment to every American to spend with no restrictions.

This “carbon cash back” makes carbon pricing equitable for poor and middle class people because the monthly carbon dividend offsets the slowly rising cost of fossil fuels they use.

Here is why the Press-Citizen Editorial Board endorses this bill:

Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050

This policy would reduce the United States’ carbon pollution by 50% by 2030, putting us on track to reach net zero by 2050. This will meet the goals of the Iowa City Climate Action Plan.

On Earth Day, President Joe Biden said “The United States sets out on the road to cut greenhouse gases in half by the end of this decade. That’s where we’re headed as a nation, and that’s what we can do, if we take action to build an economy that’s not only more prosperous, but healthier, fairer, and cleaner for the entire planet.”

A robust, economy-wide price on carbon is the single most powerful tool that we can use to reduce carbon pollution.

Carbon pricing is a tried and tested tool: More than 45 countries have already put a price on carbon pollution and started seeing strong results.

Affordable clean energy

With this policy, the government sets the direction and businesses respond in order to provide abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy. The market decides what the best clean energy solutions are, instead of government workers picking winners.

This policy will help make the United States a world leader in clean energy.

Saves lives

A price on carbon will improve health and save 4.5 million American lives over the next 50 years by reducing pollution we breathe.

This policy will save lives and improve health in communities of color, which suffer the worst impacts of air pollution, including increased vulnerability to COVID-19.

Puts money in your pocket

This policy is affordable for ordinary Americans because it puts money in your pocket. The money collected from the fee is given as a monthly “carbon cash back” payment for every American to spend with no restrictions.

This policy helps financially vulnerable low and middle income Americans the most.

Creates jobs

A carbon price will incentivize innovation by U.S. businesses, creating millions of new jobs that will transform our economy and put Americans back to work.

Strong economy

By 2050, this policy could save Americans over $800 billion each year in economic losses, or over $6,000 per household.

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act includes a border adjustment mechanism that prevents energy-intensive U.S. businesses from moving overseas to escape the carbon fee. It will also encourage other countries to put a price on carbon at home.

What can we do to help pass this essential, though not sufficient climate solution plan?

We need to ask our members of Congress — Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, as well as Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks — to support this as a bipartisan, effective climate solution bill that will create jobs, boost the economy, and is equitable for lower income people.

Passing this national legislation will be a big step toward accomplishing the goals of the Iowa City Climate Action Plan and to make a livable future for all Iowans.

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Quad-City Times. June 6, 2021.

Editorial: Building public support

By all appearances, plans for a new 40-bed Juvenile Detention Center in Scott County are falling into place.

A little more than a week ago, the committee looking into this issue recommended the Scott County Board of Supervisors move ahead with a 40-bed facility.

The board hasn’t officially made the call yet, but this week, financing options will be brought forward, and members of the committee were eager to move ahead with preliminary design work. A site hasn’t been announced.

We still want to learn more about this proposal, but we are happy to see the committee is not talking about a 64-bed facility, which was contemplated two years ago.

Regardless of size, however, building new detention space is a controversial proposition these days. (The idea is to have a 40-bed facility, but the facility also would be able to expand to 60 beds, if needed. We would like to learn more about the implications of this option).

We have heard plenty from people in our community who want to see a greater emphasis on preventive measures rather than simply providing more detention space.

We are sympathetic to those calls.

For years, we’ve been hearing about a Juvenile Assessment Center that would be aimed at heading off problems before they demand the attention of police and the courts. Scott County Board Chairman Ken Beck said during the presentation that the county had made a soft commitment toward supporting such a center, but the City of Davenport is taking the lead. Davenport already has committed $1 million for such an initiative.

Sarah Ott, chief strategy officer for the city, told us last week an announcement is likely to be made in a month about what is now being called a Youth Assessment Program. The city, through United Way Quad-Cities, sought proposals, and it is working on a contract with an organization she did not identify.

The idea, Ott said, is to commit to seed funding for five years, along with Scott County and Bettendorf, for a program that would serve an estimated 300-400 individuals per year. Services could begin being provided later this summer.

In other words, it sounds as if the city is getting closer to providing details on an assessment program that for far too long has been more concept than reality.

We have high hopes for such an effort. Diversion programs work. Even the committee studying the Juvenile Detention Center options noted in its presentation that programs already in place have had an impact on keeping people out of detention.

Still, no formal announcement has been made by the City of Davenport yet. There also are questions about where these assessment services should be provided. Michael Guster, president of the NAACP in Davenport, talks about providing services at The Lincoln Center, where he says there is trust in the Black community.

To us, that sounds like an idea worth exploring.

Moving forward on an expansion of the Juvenile Detention Center, which now is only licensed for 18 beds, may be an option worth pursuing. Officials say that later this year, they will have to move kids now being held in the Scott County Jail awaiting trial out of that facility because of federal requirements. And, according to the committee, the average daily need rises above the current facility’s capacity. The committee included representatives from the county, the court system, as well as the NAACP and LULAC.

We all know our community is seeing greater dangers these days. Like many, we have been alarmed at the rise in gun violence. And if the addition of more detention space makes our streets safer – for everybody – then this may be the way to go.

The committee making this recommendation has done a lot of work, and clearly this group believes an expansion is needed; now it is up to our elected leaders to do their work and, if they agree, make the case to the people.

One way to do it would be to finance this expansion, at least in part, with a bond referendum, which requires public approval. That is what has happened in the past. But we’ve been told a bond referendum may not be needed to build this facility.

That gives us pause. Expanding jails and detention facilities, whether for adults or kids, is a serious proposition and a bond referendum, while risky, is one way to get broad public input and support. If there is a way to solicit this kind of public opinion other than by referendum, we are open to ideas. The point is: This is an important decision that deserves a lot of discussion in the community.

The county board has a decision to make, but it is then that their work on this issue should truly begin.

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