Iowa’s small towns and rural communities are facing a number of challenges, many of which have caused me concern for some time. Shrinking populations, fewer jobs, aging homes, school closures, and lack of access to basic health care services have created a new reality across the face of rural Iowa. These factors have made it difficult to keep young people in rural communities or attract new business and a skilled workforce. It’s essential to me that I and my colleagues find ways to revitalize small towns and rural areas sooner than later! Our rural heritage is at stake.
More than 23% of Iowa citizens are housing cost-burdened (they spend more than 30% of their income on housing.) My goal is to make certain all Iowans have access to safe, affordable housing for themselves and for their families. We also need to incent Iowans to rehabilitate abandoned homes for the purpose of habitation or investment.
On another note, rural Iowa is behind more urban parts of the state, and the nation, with regard to access to high speed internet. I am working to see that every school, every home, every hospital, and every business is equipped with modern, high speed internet.
Over the last decade, over 100 health care centers, clinics, and pharmacies have closed their doors, most of those in rural areas. Furthermore, population decline has made it difficult for rural communities to recruit adequate EMT and other “first responder” personnel to provide basic emergency services. My goal is to be sure we are training and recruiting the best and the brightest, and providing the necessary infrastructure to make rural Iowa attractive to these professionals.
Four bills were introduced this week to revitalize rural Iowa:
- Creating More Affordable Housing: Expand the workforce housing tax credit and directing a minimum of 20% to rural areas and small towns for new, affordable housing.
- Rehabilitating Aging Homes: Create a $2 million grant fund to partner with small towns to fix up and rehab abandoned buildings with the goal of developing housing options.
- Expanding Broadband: Create high speed internet access available to more Iowans by expanding the grant program to connect more Iowans.
- Increasing Emergency Services: Increase the tax credit for EMT, police, and fire volunteers in rural communities and create grant funding to help rural communities with infrastructure, volunteer training, and equipment for emergency personnel.
To find out more about these bills go to https://iowahouse.org/ruraliowa.
Bill extends college courses to high school students
Under legislation currently being considered, more high school students would be able to take college courses.
Currently, Iowa allows high school students to take advanced level college courses at a community college while receiving high school credit for the class. The class is free to the high school student. Later, when going to college, the student would not need to take that college course already completed, which saves on tuition costs.
To qualify, a high school student has to meet proficiency standards in the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) in all areas of math, English and science. They also have to meet enrollment standards set by the local community college including any college assessment to determine knowledge of subject matter.
Now, under a bill that just passed the House, the ISASP requirement would no longer be required. Students would still have to meet the community college’s local college assessment requirements. For example, if a student excels in math, but is not proficient in English, they would be able to take the local community math test to qualify. Previously, students had to also be proficient in English and science to qualify for the math course.
STATE REP. SCOTT OURTH, D-Ackworth, represents District 26, which includes much of Warren County. He can be reached at 515-208-7281 or email@example.com.
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