Iowans have always strongly believed in education. As Iowa rebounds from the national recession, investing in education is more important than ever. That’s why the Iowa Legislature focused this year on creating jobs and growing our economy by improving student achievement and expanding educational opportunity.
We found bipartisan agreement on investing more in our community colleges. These local institutions continue to lead the way in preparing Iowans to fill local skilled job openings. At community colleges, Iowans can get the training, degrees and certifications they need to qualify for in-demand positions that pay well and offer a chance for advancement.
We also reached agreement on keeping college and university tuition affordable so that all Iowa families can take advantage of the educational opportunities that lead to great jobs.
And by investing in STEM—intensified science, technology, engineering and math education—we’re helping K-12 students prepare to be part of a skilled Iowa workforce that attracts high-quality businesses to our state.
Other efforts to help students become successful in the 21st century economy include:
** Ensuring Iowa kids are good readers by keeping class sizes small in kindergarten through third-grade. Smaller classes give young students the one-on-one time they need with their teachers. A new statewide Iowa reading research center will spread the best practices for teaching reading.
** Continuing our commitment to strong local schools by raising academic standards, increasing teacher and administrator effectiveness, and making changes that increase learning. This is a good first step in education reform, our multi-year effort to enhance educational opportunities for Iowa students at all levels.
** Investing in education, research, technology and training facilities necessary to prepare a highly skilled workforce.
In the Senate, I helped pass additional investments in student achievement, including an increase in basic state support for local schools. Unfortunately, the Iowa House did not take up this effort to help our schools pay for textbooks, heating bills, technology and other necessities.
I’ll keep pushing to strengthen Iowa education and job training. It is essential to helping Iowans become more productive, competitive workers, growing our economy and boosting job creation.
Fixing Iowa’s shortage of skilled workers
Business leaders say improving worker training is the most important thing we can do to keep Iowa’s economy growing. Simply put, when Iowa employers can’t find the skilled workers they need, they end up losing business to competitors, hiring from other states, or moving their businesses out of Iowa.
We want Iowans to provide Iowa businesses with all the skilled workers they need. Here are two facts from a new jobs report from Iowa Workforce Development that help show the way forward:
1. About half of all jobs in Iowa require an associate’s degree, a certification or an apprenticeship, but only about one-third of the current workforce fits that bill.
2. The demand for skilled workers is expected to remain strong. This includes the majority of “green jobs,” as well as a variety of work in in education, health care, finance and business services.
That’s why I’m working to expand technical training that will help under-skilled Iowans qualify for available jobs here in Iowa.
This year, we agreed to invest more in matching unemployed Iowans to job openings at local businesses. We asked our community colleges to help by using the experience they’ve gained in working closely with local employers.
In addition, we provided additional funding to help keep tuition affordable and kicked off education reforms to make our local schools stronger than ever. We are also intensifying science, technology, engineering and math education in our schools.
A new “Skilled Iowa” initiative will help Iowans take advantage of these opportunities. Skilled Iowa uses a nationally recognized approach to assess someone’s skills and abilities, assists them in their skill development and improvement, and matches them with employers who have job openings.
To learn more about what Skilled Iowa can offer job seekers and employers, go to www.skillediowa.org.
To see the complete report on Iowa’s shortage of skilled workers, visit www.iowaworkforce.org/imsj2012.pdf.
Muscatine County receives funding to help Iowans with legal services
The Iowa Supreme Court has approved a $5,000 grant for Muscatine Legal Service to maintain their program of civil legal assistance to low-income residents. The grant is paid for through the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account program, which is funded without state appropriations and at no cost to lawyers or their clients. With this year’s grants, the Supreme Court has awarded over $23 million in IOLTA grants since the program began in 1985.
Food banks deserve our support
As Iowa recovers from the national economic recession, many Iowa families continue to struggle to put enough food on their tables.
A recent Feeding America study found that almost 150,000 Iowa children are not getting a healthy diet. On top of that, many Iowa seniors with fixed incomes often have to choose between buying food or buying medicine and other essentials. That just doesn’t seem right when you consider that one Iowa farmer feeds 155 people worldwide.
It’s time for the state of Iowa to help fight hunger. Our state is one of the few nationwide that fails to support local non-profit food banks and hunger-fighting charities like the United Way.
During the 2012 session, I successfully worked with Democratic and Republican legislators to approve legislation that invests state dollars in making sure Iowans have enough to eat. Unfortunately, Governor Branstad vetoed this modest bipartisan effort.
Next session, I’ll work to pass the food bank legislation again, and work harder to convince Governor Branstad that this is the right approach to fighting hunger in Iowa.
In the meantime, we can all help by contributing to our local food banks. If you’d like to donate or know someone in need of food, contact:
** River Bend Foodbank: (309) 764-7434 ext #2, serving Muscatine County.
** Food Bank of Southern Iowa: (641) 682-3403 , serving the counties of Des Moines and Louisa.
Learn more about how you can get involved in fighting hunger in Iowa at www.iowafba.org, the Iowa Food Bank Association’s site.
Buy fresh at your local farmers’ market
Why eat food grown thousands of miles away, processed and then shipped all the way to Iowa when you can eat fresh food grown by your neighbors?
More than 200 farmers’ markets offer Iowans a variety of fruits, vegetables and other food grown right here at home. Locally grown food is good for you, good for the environment and good for the Iowa economy.
During the recent legislative session, we voted to make these healthy local foods available throughout the year and boost business for Iowa farmers with year-round farmers’ markets. The new law means vendors will pay only one annual fee per county, rather than multiple fees per year.
Iowa is already fourth in the nation in terms of the number of farmers’ markets and second in the nation when it comes to farmers’ markets per person. Let’s all do what we can to make Iowa number one in eating healthy, locally grown food. It’s just one way Iowa can truly claim the title of “Healthiest State in the Nation.”
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601