August 20, 2014

Bye-bye summer!
Hatch and Branstad’s first debate – watch it!
Remember passenger rail? Don’t forget who failed us
Iowa City soul fest
Cannabidiol implementation study committee – Thursday, September 11
Medical cannabis rulemaking public hearing – Tuesday, August 26
Investing in student achievement is paying off
Teacher leaders strengthen classroom instruction
Expanding efforts to prepare students for good jobs
New ranking proves "kids count" in Iowa
IC company gets funding for innovative concept

A new year is getting under way for Iowa City Community Schools! Welcome back kids, teachers and staff! It has been a busy summer and looks to be a very busy fall with political campaigns gearing up. I will be co-chairing two legislative interim committees in the coming weeks: the Tax Expenditure Review Committee and the Cannabidiol Implementation Study Committee. See below for details on the medical cannabis issue.

Here is a link to IPTV’s coverage of the first gubernatorial debate. Senator Hatch does a good job of pointing out the need for new leadership and a fresh start. Governor Branstad will say anything to win and fails to take any responsibility for his scandal ridden administration. The Governor even complains about me during the debate for standing up and pointing out how he got taken to the cleaners ($500 plus million for 165 permanent jobs, which works out to $3.3 million per job) to get a fertilizer plant that was always going to locate in Iowa.

Watch the debate at

While I’m thinking about it, Governor Branstad stopped passenger rail service from coming to Iowa. He opposed it from his first day in office and never changed his mind. This development would have created several hundred permanent jobs in eastern Iowa. The start-up cost to upgrade the tracks and improve train stations was about $20 million in state funding. The benefits to moving freight and people were enormous. So he is cool with giving more than $500 million in taxpayer subsidies to one of the wealthiest international corporations in the world, and we are broke when it comes to $20 million to get passenger rail to Iowa? Unfortunately, this is another example of failed, stale leadership from Governor Branstad.

The Iowa City Soul Fest will take place September 19-21 in Iowa City. Here is a link to all the details:

Cup plant flowering in my yard.

In June, legislative leaders created the Cannabidiol Implementation Study Committee. The role of the committee is to oversee the implementation of the medical cannabis legislation approved with strong bi-partisan support. The committee will meet on Thursday, September 11, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the State Capitol. The members of the committee can be found at the following link:

The agenda of the meeting provides an opportunity for public input on medical cannabis in Iowa. View the agenda at

Over the summer, the Iowa Department of Public Health has been writing rules to implement the medical cannabis bill that passed earlier this year. There is a link below to the proposed rules.

There will be a public hearing on August 26, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at which time persons may present their views either orally or in writing. At the hearing, persons will be asked to give their names and addresses for the record and to confine their remarks to the subject of the rules.

The rules are noticed as ARC 1571C and begin on page 165 of the PDF at this link:

This hearing will originate from the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) and will be accessible over the ICN from the following locations:

• Ottumwa Regional Health Center, 1001 E. Pennsylvania, Ottumwa

• North Iowa Area Community College, 500 College Drive, Mason City

• Iowa Western Community College, 2700 College Road, Council Bluffs

• Sioux City Public Library, 529 Pierce Street, Sioux City

• Davenport Public Library, 321 Main, Davenport

• Lucas State Office Building, Sixth Floor, 321 E. 12th Street, Des Moines

This hearing will also be accessible via conference call by dialing 1-866-685-1580 and using the passcode 5152814355. Anyone who plans to attend the public hearing and has special requirements (such as those relating to hearing or mobility impairments) should contact the Iowa Department of Public Health and advise staff of specific needs.

Any interested person may make written comments or suggestions on the proposed rules on or before August 26, 2014. Such written comments should be directed to Deborah Thompson, Iowa Department of Public Health, Lucas State Office Building, 321 E. 12th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075. Comments may be sent by fax to 515-281-4958 or by e-mail to

Students and teachers are heading back to Iowa classrooms for the new school year this month. When they do, the education reforms we've approved over the last couple of years will make a big difference in their experience, as schools put their best teachers in leadership roles, and boost science, math and technology programs.

Our investments in student achievement are paying off. Iowa moved up to 13th in the country for education (from 15th last year) in the latest Kids Count data. More youngsters are going to preschool, the percentage of Iowa kids proficient in reading and math is up, and more high school students are graduating on time.

This year, we continued our progress to boost student achievement in Iowa’s K-12 schools by:

• Investing an additional $87 million in educational opportunities at all levels (SF 2347).

• Improving student reading skills, including addressing dyslexia and providing teachers assistance to increase literacy (SF 2319).

• Helping K-3 students who are falling behind gain strong reading skills through intensive literacy programs (SF 2347).

• Recruiting the next generation of great Iowa teachers by providing additional funding for the Teach Iowa Scholars initiative (SF 2347).

• Supporting a teacher-leadership effort in which Iowa's most effective educators work with new teachers and mentor those looking to improve their classroom results (SF 2347).

• Extending incentives for school districts that work together to improve opportunities for students (HF 2271).

Educating Iowa’s future workforce is a smart investment when the state budget is in such good shape. Republican State Auditor Mary Mosiman's recent review of state finances confirmed that the Legislature has put together a sustainable budget based on sound principles. Our approach has given us a healthy surplus, even while we implement major education reforms and other initiatives to grow our middle class.

We are committed to keeping Iowa’s finances in good shape while also expanding educational opportunities, raising student achievement and ensuring our children are prepared for a global, knowledge-based economy.

Research shows a correlation between a school's ability to keep good teachers and student achievement. We want the best teachers in Iowa classrooms and are giving them the tools they need to help students succeed.

We're rewarding effective teachers with more responsibility and higher pay, attracting promising new teachers with competitive salaries and opportunities for advancement, and encouraging greater collaboration among all educators. Top teachers taking on leadership roles was central to our 2013 Education Reform initiative.

The goal of a new Teacher Leadership and Compensation System is for 25 percent of teachers to take on new leadership roles, such as instructional coaches and mentors, to improve the classroom experience and raise student achievement. Teacher leadership systems promise to help students learn more by better meeting their individual needs.

A Commission on Educator Leadership and Compensation selected 39 school districts (made up of about one-third of Iowa students in both urban and rural areas) for the first year of funding from a pool of 146 applicants. The Teacher Leadership and Compensation System will be phased in over three years, with the goal of having all Iowa school districts participating on a voluntary basis by 2016-17.

With higher expectations for students, it’s no longer realistic for one principal to provide all the instructional leadership in a school. Teacher and principal leadership teams are key to preparing students for the college and career training they’ll need down the road.

For more information on Iowa's new teacher-leader effort and how it benefits our students, go to

A solid foundation in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) is preparing Iowans for a globally competitive job market. Today, more than 100,000 Iowa students in more than 3,000 classrooms and clubs are involved in STEM.

The Legislature began Iowa's STEM efforts in 2008. Over the last six years, our state's commitment to STEM has grown to include STEM-focused classrooms, teacher licenses, community festivals, partnerships between businesses and schools, and more.

Iowans say we need to continue to increase our investment in STEM. In 2013-14, the Legislature provided $5.2 million for STEM initiatives. In addition to state funding, STEM gets lots of support from grants, cost-sharing and private-sector investments.

A new report shows that 98 percent believe advancements in STEM will provide better job opportunities for Iowans. Virtually all students interested in STEM careers plan to get a college, graduate or professional degree, with many hoping to enter the medicine, health, animal sciences, biology, engineering and computer fields.

STEM occupations pay on average $10 more per hour and $20,000 more per year than other jobs. Yet in 2012, Iowa had about 10,000 vacancies in STEM jobs. As our state gains a reputation for workers with good STEM skills, we'll be able to lure even more companies to Iowa, create great jobs and improve our economy.

Iowa's STEM Advisory Council is designating a portion of the money the Legislature has provided to immerse more STEM students in professional environments through STEM Centers for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS). CAPS unite business and industry with STEM education to make the most of local strengths, challenges and resources.

All Iowa school districts serving grades 9-12 are eligible to apply for CAPS, in which learning is based on business and industry needs, with professionals and teachers providing real-world, problem-based assignments and projects. Learn more about being a part of CAPS at

For further information on STEM education in Iowa, go to

Iowa continues to boost its reputation as one of the best places for children. Iowa rose to third in the nation (up from seventh in 2013) in the national Kids Count data.

The rankings are based on economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Iowa placed high — and boosted its standing over last year — on each measure. The 2014 national Kids Count data show Iowa placed:

• First in children's health, up from seventh last year.

• Third in economic well-being, up from fifth in 2013.

• Seventh in family and community, up from eighth.

• Thirteenth in education, up from fifteenth.

What are we doing right? The number of Iowa children without health insurance has dropped dramatically, as have low-birth-weight babies. Iowa is also seeing fewer cases of child death, and teen drug and alcohol abuse is declining. More kids are proficient at reading and math, and they are graduating on time from high school.

However, the Kids Count report also shows some areas where we can improve the lives of Iowa kids. Since last year, Iowa has more children living in poverty, more children in single parent homes, more children whose parents lack secure employment and more teens working rather than attending school.

A child’s chances of lifelong success depend on strong family and community support. Here in Iowa, we’ve put a lot of emphasis on ensuring that success with policies and investments for better jobs, education, health care and safe communities. We can be proud of the results we’re seeing, but we won’t stop working to make Iowa the very best place for children—and for all Iowans.

Read more about how Iowa stacks up when it comes to the wellbeing of our kids at

Iowa City’s Pear Deck was awarded a $100,000 loan from the Iowa Innovation Acceleration Fund. The company has developed a platform built on Google Drive that lets teachers quickly create interactive presentations and assessments. The Iowa Innovation Acceleration Fund promotes the formation and growth of businesses that engage in the transfer of technology into competitive, profitable companies that create high-paying jobs. The funds are designed to support commercializing research, launching new start-ups and accelerating private investment and industrial expansion efforts that result in significant capital investment.

How to Contact Me

Joe Bolkcom
728 2nd Avenue
Iowa City, IA 52245

About The Networker

The Networker provides brief summaries of some of the things that I am working on, the work of the General Assembly, and political perspectives on issues. I also use it to announce meetings and how to find useful information about state government.

Additional information

Senator Joe Bolkcom is an Assistant Majority Leader and chair of the Ways & Means Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Commerce, Environment & Energy Independence, Human Resources, and Natural Resources committees.