Governor announces scholarship plan

LAST WEEK AT THE CAPITOL


Governor Kim Reynolds’ Condition of the State address on Tuesday night included a proposed Students First scholarship program for eligible public school parents who would move to an accredited nonpublic school. These scholarships are essentially “Education Savings Accounts,” which the Catholic bishops have supported for many years.


The scholarship would be about $5,400 and public school students (including all incoming kindergarteners from private preschools) with a family income of less than 400% of the federal poverty level would be eligible to apply. Public school students with an individualized education plan would also be eligible. There would be a limit of 10,000 scholarships.


Under the plan, all school teachers, including those in accredited nonpublic schools, would be eligible for a $1,000 bonus if they stay employed at a school next year.


The governor also proposed increasing public school funding by 2.5%.


Several bills related to verifying eligibility for government assistance were introduced. The ICC will be monitoring the bills for their impact on those who need the help. We agree that only those who qualify should receive benefits.


The governor also proposed a reduction of state income taxes to a 4% flat income tax rate by year 2026 and eliminating the retirement income tax. Iowa has a general fund balance of $1.24 billion and nearly $1 billion in cash reserves.


Lt. Governor Adam Gregg signed a proclamation marking January as Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. ICC staff had a chance to meet with members of the Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Slavery. The coalition was founded in 2014 by five congregations of women religious: Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters and Sisters of Mercy.


Franciscan Sister Mary Lechtenberg is a co-chair of the coalition and received an award from the Network Against Human Trafficking at the proclamation signing.


There was also an announcement about a new alliance being formed: Iowa Businesses Against Human Trafficking. Every business in the state is invited to join the effort.


MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY HOLIDAY


The state is marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day so the Legislature won’t return to work until tomorrow. In observance, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles said:


“Rev. King was driven by the biblical vision of righteousness and truth, a vision that he understood to be reflected in our nation’s founding documents. He believed in what he called the ‘American creed’ the belief expressed by our founders that all men and women are created equal and endowed by God with a sacred dignity and undeniable rights to life, liberty, and equality …


“As we look to our future, let us continue to draw from Rev. King’s wisdom, especially his commitment to the Beatitudes of Jesus, and the principles of nonviolence and love for our enemies.”


Archbishop Gomez is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


VIGIL FOR LIFE



Catholics across the country are encouraged to observe a prayer vigil this week marking the 49th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion through nine months of pregnancy. Since those decisions, over 62 million abortions have been performed legally in the United States. The annual pro-life novena, 9 Days for Life, starts on Wednesday.


AND FINALLY,


Starting Jan. 19, the federal government will begin distributing at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to American homes for free at www.COVIDTests.gov.

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The Students First proposal is still being discussed at the Capitol. It would offer funding for some parents to send their children to a nonpublic school. The bill has already passed the Iowa Senate.