Legislators hold final area briefing

Community members from around the area paid a visit to the Montgomery County YMCA March 2 to hear the second and final legislative briefing from Iowa Sen. Tom Shipley and Iowa Rep. Tom Moore.
Before opening up for audience comments, Moore shared his activity on two bills, the first being House File 2612, regarding Area Education Agency services.
Under the House bill, school districts would continue using the AEAs for special education services. In the second year under the bill, districts could begin using state funding that currently goes to the AEAs in order to purchase media services from another provider. In the third year, districts could also shop around for educational services.
Moore said the House version of the bill was passed, and said he had always been against anything but a task force looking into the AEAs. Moore said he voted on the House bill because the governor’s bill was discarded.
“We said we’re going to do it our way, and do something that brings everyone in and gets it talked about, and we did,” said Moore. “There have been hundreds of hours and many meetings between superintendents, AEAs, parents, and teachers. All were brought into the House of Representatives in collaboration to put this bill together. This isn’t just legislators legislating. It’s coming up with something that might be a workable solution.”
The House passed the bill Feb. 29. Moore said the Republican House caucused on the bill between five and 10 times. Moore voted for the bill, he said, for one specific reason.
“At the time of the vote, I was fully prepared to vote no when I walked in to caucus. What changed my mind was that the AEA Chiefs, in consultation with their boards and people, had moved their declaration from against the bill to undecided or neutral, in regards to our new bill,” Moore said. “They had a voice. There are things in it that they are not comfortable with yet to make them be in favor of the bill, but they weren’t against it. That’s what moved me and my vote.”
Moore stated he still has issues with some of the areas in the bill, but the task force was included, and the task force will make recommendations that the House can act on to make changes going forward.
Nancy Lindgren, a school psychologist with the AEA, said she was disappointed with the bill, as a majority of the State of Iowa didn’t want AEAs to change.
“I want you to know that even though the AEA Chiefs decided to change their stance to undecided, they didn’t do that to show their support for this. My chief sent an email that said they felt they had to change their stance to undecided in order to remain at the table to try and improve the system. They were told that by their lobbyists. We’re educators. We want to work with kids,” Lindgren said.
Moore felt that was partially true, but emphasized that nothing changed with what she does under the new House bill.
Lindgren said that despite that, the organization would have difficulties hiring people with all the uncertainty.
Moore stated the only thing that changed was that the money stays with the school system. It didn’t just simply flow through to the AEA for services it didn’t know it was paying for. Moore also felt that changes needed to be made.
Moore also voted in favor of House File 2586, which allows school personnel who meet training requirements to receive a permit for carrying a firearm on school grounds, in addition to taking other measures to bolster school security, and a second bill that required schools with enrollments of 5,000 or more to have a school resource officer, or hire their own private security. House File 2586 would apply directly to schools around southwest Iowa.
“We’re giving them the ability to say there can be armed staff within the school system. There are already schools in the state that have staff that are armed. The main issue was that for many of the schools, they couldn’t do it under the threat of losing insurance coverage,” advised Moore. “This bill helps correct that and make it so that a school district, the board, and the administration, can decide in favor, or against, having armed staff. It’s voluntary for school districts, and voluntary for individuals within the school. The superintendent can’t require a teacher to be armed.”
The bill also requires teachers who choose to carry weapons undergo training that is as extensive, or more extensive, than law enforcement officers undergo coming out of the Iowa Law Enforcement Agency Academy. Moore said training would remain ongoing.
John Baker addressed the two legislators. Baker said he understood the dilemma, but speaking from a mental health perspective, where he’d worked for more than 20 years, he wanted it understood as the laws were passed, the damage had already been done to young brains.
“This comes from my work in early childhood education. There’s a level of trauma that comes to these young children when we constantly remind them they may die tomorrow in a school setting. I hope that as we’re passing these laws, that we’re at least reminding people in the school system to minimize the amount of trauma and the amount of normalization of school shootings we do to those young brains. They don’t recover from that,” Baker said. “As you pass these legislative measures, I want you to understand what an impact this has already had on our culture, our community, and our young people.”
Day care services were also discussed, as well as finding enough people to enter into daycare services. Larry Brandstetter, who said he is loosely connected with the Red Oak Child Development Center, said a big issue was the pay.
“The average we can afford to pay right now is $12.50 per hour. Those people that have a passion for doing that are already in the classroom, where they could go elsewhere and be paid more. There are people out there that would like to take those positions, but they can afford to lose the income they’re currently making, and because of the obligations they have for their families, they can’t move into a day care situation because of that,” Brandstetter stated.
Brandstetter also stated he supported the comments of Baker regarding teachers carrying guns in the classroom.
Moore reiterated that the law was entirely voluntary, and 33 states already allowed for guns in the classrooms.
“This is only one tool in the toolbox for area districts. We have another bill coming out that will do a lot more with school safety that has nothing to do with guns. It’s all part of a comprehensive package,” Moore said.
Marty Maher also spoke, citing if the psyche of the children was a critical concern, what the psyche was of the students in Perry was.
“They had a school shooting in a gun-free zone. I seriously doubt they feel better in a gun-free zone than if there was some mechanism on-campus to help protect the student,” Maher commented. “We can talk about the fact that the schools in this district have not had that happem to them. But every student in the state knows what happened at Perry. To say the students feel safer because they don’t see a gun, I don’t think that carries a lot of weight. I don’t envision any teacher walking into school with a six-gun on their belt. Not having another Perry is much more vital to the psyche of all of the kids in the State of Iowa than the potential fear that they’re all going to die.”
Red Oak Council person Adam Hietbrink was in attendance at the briefing, and mentioned the fact that residents from the Glenwood Resource Center and the Clarinda Mental Health Institute had moved to Montgomery County, and an influx of mental health issues was being seen in the community.
“When a person calls with a mental health issue, one policeman has to deal with this person and not know where to go with them. So they get taken to the jail. We do not have a licensed mental health person there. So now they’re in jail, and we have to watch them, and we get no help,” explained Hietbrink.
Hietbrink added the same issues were being seen in the school system. He felt if the state was allocating more than $1 billion to mental health, something needed to be done regionally or locally to have mental health professionals.
Baker was asked by Shipley if he had suggestions on how to get more people in the field. Baker said the answer was simple, much like day care providers, they had to be paid.
“Most of the entry-level jobs at the mental health level at this point, even with a BA or a Master’s are half of what they would be in other fields. Also, we’re in a rural area, which makes things even more difficult,” explained Baker.
Another factor was the lack of mental health institutes in the area. In some cases people had to be transported more than 300 miles for mental health services.
“The hospitals have tried to open wings, but they can’t afford to keep them going a lot of the time. It’s a real crisis,” Baker said.
Red Oak Councilperson Brian Bills stated 75% of the Red Oak Police Department’s calls were mental health issues.
Maher also spoke about the Summit Carbon Pipeline project. Maher shared information with the legislators stating a majority of the state did not want imminent domain used for a pipeline that is not going to serve the public.
“The question is, why can’t the legislature address that issue. I know the Senate is the problem with it, but maybe the Republican senators should go to the leadership and say that they want this,” Maher said.
Maher also cited the safety issues of the pipeline and the fact that if there was a problem with the pipeline, there would be a kill zone.
“According to government statistics, the distance, a mile wide, is going to sicken people and be a danger to their health. Those are statistics and plume models from Navigator, and they didn’t put out the worst case scenario. That’s a problem. I don’t know what you can do about it, but imminent domain is a big issue to protecting the people of the state of Iowa and that you represent,” advised Maher.
Bills said the water required to sequester the carbon will be astronomical.
No other topics were discussed at the briefing.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

Comment Here