Let’s work together to make Iowa public schools great again

Zach Wahls and Todd Prichard, the Democratic leaders in the Iowa Senate and House, co-authored this post. -promoted by Laura Belin

Public education has long been the foundation of our state. For generations, Iowans could count on a great public education from Iowa schools to set them up for success in life. When we were growing up, our public education system regularly led national rankings.

Today, however, many Iowans are watching with dismay as a decade of under-investment from Republican leadership has resulted in Iowa placing in the middle of the pack in national rankings. We’re wondering: When will Iowa schools lead the nation again?

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ISU switch to Workday accounting delayed state financial report

The state of Iowa missed a deadline for publishing a key report on its finances because Iowa State University was unable to provide the data on time.

Iowa’s public universities have typically submitted their financial information to the state by October 1, allowing the state to complete its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) by December 31. But ISU is more than four months behind schedule in submitting data for fiscal year 2020.

The delay stems from the university’s transition to a new accounting method using Workday software, raising concerns about the functionality of the computer system state government committed to in 2019.

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Governor names Michael Bousselot to lead Iowa's budget agency

Governor Kim Reynolds announced on February 1 that she had selected Michael Bousselot to serve as director of the Iowa Department of Management, effective February 8. That agency handles state budget planning as well as disbursements from Iowa’s general fund and various other funds, such as the Coronavirus Relief Fund and other federal money flows related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The appointment means that loyalists who formerly worked in the governor’s office will head Iowa’s budget and homeland security departments, provided that state senators confirm Reynolds’ nominees.

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Why oversight of Iowa's COVID-19 spending just got more important

Three state agencies that play important roles in Iowa’s use of COVID-19 relief funds will have new leadership in the coming weeks.

The turnover underscores the need for lawmakers, state and federal auditors, and the news media to keep a close watch on how Governor Kim Reynolds’ administration spends money Congress approved last year to address the coronavirus pandemic.

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Six themes from the Iowa legislature's opening day in 2021

The Iowa legislature’s 2021 session began on January 11 with the usual appeals to work together for the good of Iowans. But potential for bipartisan work on high-profile issues appears limited, as the Republicans who enjoy large majorities in the state House and Senate have quite different priorities from their Democratic counterparts.

At the end of this post, I’ve posted the substantive portions of all opening remarks from legislative leaders, as prepared for delivery. The speakers focused on the following matters:

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Exclusive: Iowa governor overspent office budget before tapping CARES Act

Governor Kim Reynolds’ office would have had a large shortfall for the fiscal year that ended June 30 without a transfer of federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, state financial reports show.

Documents Bleeding Heartland obtained through public records requests indicate that in mid-September, the state’s accounting system showed $448,448.86 was needed to balance the fiscal year 2020 appropriation for the governor’s office. Reynolds’ chief of staff Sara Craig Gongol invoiced the Iowa Department of Homeland Security for exactly that amount in CARES Act funds shortly before the books closed on fiscal year 2020.

That invoice and an accompanying document on “COVID-19 Personnel Costs” were revised to incorporate language from U.S. Treasury guidance on allowable Coronavirus Relief Fund expenditures.

For many years, during several administrations, Iowa governors have maintained a larger office than the general fund appropriation would otherwise allow by having separate state agencies support some employees’ salaries. But it has not been typical to use hundreds of thousands of federal dollars to balance the books. Without the CARES Act funding, Reynolds’ office would have been deeply in the red during the last fiscal year, even after four state agencies chipped in a total of $357,652 to cover part of four staffers’ compensation.

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