SCHOOL START DATE

You may have been hearing some discussion about a “start date” for Iowa’s public and nonpublic schools. Iowa law requires schools to start no earlier than the week that contains the first day of September. However, for many years the state has allowed schools to get a waiver and pick an earlier date to start school.

Following objections from the tourism industry and the Iowa State Fair, the governor has decided not to allow any waivers. This poses a problem for many schools, including Catholic schools, that want to set an earlier date, as has been the common practice for years.

There are two bills moving in the legislature to address the issue. Senate File 227 would allow schools to set a date in accord with the “best educational interests” of the students. House File 13 would create a start date for schools of no earlier than Aug. 23.

Our perspective has been that we support our Catholic schools’ ability to set their own start date according to local community and education needs. But as a practical matter, to fix the current problem, the governor will have to agree to sign a bill, so it is seems unlikely that schools will retain the ability to set their own calendar. Discussions will continue at the statehouse on what the start date might actually be.

EDUCATION CELEBRATION – MARCH 3

Iowa Catholic Conference staff members, along with the diocesan superintendents of schools, are part of the board membership of the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education. Part of our board meeting last week was spent preparing for the “Education Celebration” on Tuesday, March 3 at the state Capitol. You’re invited – our goal is 1,000 attendees!

Go to www.iowaace.org for more information.

The keynote speaker at a noon rally will be Virginia Walden-Ford. She was one of about 130 black students who were handpicked to desegregate the Little Rock, Arkansas high schools in the mid-1960s. She became a key leader in organizing parents to support school choice and the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Act “voucher” program. Walden-Ford is a founding member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

Before and after the rally, we plan for many parents to visit with their legislators about the current School Tuition Organization program and Education Savings Accounts.

ACTION ALERTS

Action alerts in support of the following three bills are up in our Action Center. Please click on the links below, read about the bills and send a message to your legislator. No action was taken on these bills last week. If legislators don’t hear from constituents, they can assume there’s no interest in the bills.

Senate File 144 – refugee training

Senate Study Bill 1092 – temporary visitors driver’s license

House File 58 – ultrasound

At the federal level, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, testified on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration last week before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security in opposition to three enforcement-only bills. Collectively, the bills would harm immigrant and refugee children; criminalize undocumented persons and those who provide them with basic needs assistance, including religious and church workers; and permit states and localities to create and enforce their own immigration laws.

Instead, he urged the subcommittee to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation, including a path to citizenship for the undocumented.

Please take some time to call Congress on Ash Wednesday, Thursday or Friday this week and leave this message: “Please oppose including language in a DHS funding bill which reverses the President’s executive actions on immigration and please pass comprehensive immigration reform.” The toll-free number to call Congress is (855) 589-5698.

“WEBCAM” ABORTION

The Iowa Supreme Court has set a date of March 11 to hear arguments on a lawsuit against the state Board of Medicine’s rule essentially prohibiting “webcam” abortion. In 2013 the board approved a rule that would require a physician to be physically present when abortion drugs are being provided, rather than pushing a button following a remote video consultation. A district court upheld the rule, but Planned Parenthood has appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

We believe the Board of Medicine has a right to establish a minimum standard of care for such a serious procedure.

NEWS YOU CAN USE

From the Diocese of Davenport – Tax time is confusing for many people, and as a result many may not receive important tax credits for which they qualify. Two of these are the Earned Income Credit (EIC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The IRS offers an outreach package for anyone interested in educating others about these important tax credits and the availability of free tax assistance. The toolkit is found at www.eitcoutreach.org.

AND FINALLY,

The New York Catholic Conference has put together a website with Catholic guidance on end-of-life decision making. You can find it at www.catholicendoflife.org.