Catholic Schools Week and National School Choice Week were celebrated across the state last week. Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds spoke at a school choice event held at the State Historical Building and Gov. Branstad signed proclamations to mark the events.

In addition, staff from the Iowa Catholic Conference was part of a team of speakers discussing Education Savings Accounts at Davenport Assumption High School last Thursday night. There was a great turnout of nearly 100 people at this event.

Our staff was also part of a forum on immigration held at St. Pius X Parish in Urbandale on Tuesday night. It’s great to see so many people interested in learning more about their faith and its application in the public square. For regular updates on events, including photos, keep checking our Facebook page and Twitter.

One quick point about Education Savings Accounts: As you recall, ESAs would allow parents who choose not to enroll their children in a public school to receive a deposit of public funds into a savings account set up by the state. The money could be used for nonpublic school tuition.

There’s still some confusion about how funding for public schools works. Public schools do not receive state per-pupil aid for nonpublic school students. Catholic school parents receiving funds in an ESA will not be taking money away from the public schools.

SENATE FILE 107 – Statute of limitations

Sexual abuse is a horrible crime and has caused grievous harm to victims. Unfortunately, sexual abuse is not uncommon in our society, and the Catholic Church has had to learn some painful lessons of its own over the years.

I bring the issue up because of a bill introduced in the Iowa Senate last week, Senate File 107. Iowa’s current law allows for victims to file a lawsuit against perpetrators and institutions for four years after they discover the injury caused by sexual abuse. This can be many years later.

Senate File 107, in addition to extending the deadline (the “statute of limitations”) to file a lawsuit in the future, would take away any deadlines for a period of three years.

We oppose this provision because statutes of limitation have been a part of the law for centuries for good reason. Even though very important claims are at stake, statutes of limitations exist because of fairness. Evidence gets old. Memories fade, records are lost or never found, and witnesses die. The passage of time makes it very difficult for any accused person or institution to defend themselves, including those instances where the institution was not aware of any abuse.

What has been learned over the years has changed how we operate as a Church. Pastoral outreach to victims and the protection of children are priorities. The Catholic Church is among the safest environments for children today.

Senate File 107 puts the social services and educational work of the Church at risk. You’ll be hearing more about this issue soon.

SENATE STUDY BILL 1092 – Temporary driver’s license

Many immigrant families today are in a difficult position: they want to be able to fulfill their basic obligations to their family, but do not want to risk family separation by being detained or deported for driving without a license.

The ICC supports Senate Study Bill 1092, which would allow undocumented residents of Iowa to obtain a provisional driver’s license if they meet certain criteria. They must have an unexpired passport or an official identification card issued by a foreign government. They also must pass the same test you or I would.

Allowing people to receive a license after testing is a safety benefit for all of us, and an everyday necessity for many who need to keep a job. We believe this would help immigrants have better family lives, allowing them to attend church, go to school, shop for groceries, and fulfill other daily obligations with less fear.

SSB 1092 is a pragmatic approach to solving a real problem in Iowa. We think the bill would improve roadway safety by ensuring that all drivers are tested regarding their driving skills, know the rules of the road, and have access to mandatory insurance.

Many law enforcement personnel from around the state have signed on to the concept. Go to www.iowasaferoads.com for more information.

AND FINALLY,

If you’re interested in nonpublic education and Catholic schools, save the date for the “Education Celebration” on Tuesday, March 3. Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education is sponsoring the event with a noon rally at the state capitol. Parents and students from around the state are planning to attend and meet legislators. We hope to see you there!