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DES MOINES — Legislation to keep Iowa school children “full and focused” won unanimous approval in the Iowa House on Thursday.

Supporters said the bill would end most “food shaming,” or denying school lunches to children whose parents owe the school for those meals. It was approved 96-0.

The bill “is good for the children of Iowa,” said Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt, D-Cedar Rapids. “It makes clear to all public schools that current and future Iowa children will not be shamed because their parents are behind in payment.”

Schools will be prohibited from posting names or otherwise identifying students whose parents owe money for school meals. In some cases, schools have required those students to sit together at table separate from classmates, do chores to pay for meals or denied participation in school activities, lawmakers said.

Ensuring that students eat is important, Running-Marquardt said, because “we know that if a child is hungry, it affects their ability to learn.”

MCO fixes

Lawmakers also approved a Medicaid managed care organization bill, 97-0, to address what Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant, called “some bumps in the system.”

An amendment he offered would require MCOs to pay claims within the time specified in the contract. It directs the Department of Human Services to use standardized Medicaid provider enrollment forms and credentialing standards. It also addresses appeals and reviews and court-ordered services.

Also Thursday:

  • The House voted 97-0 to approve House File 2312 to require the Department of Public Safety to implement a plan to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits submitted to the state crime lab. It requires the processing time be reduced to 90 days from the current six-month backlog of about 1,000 untested kits.

Although she voted for the bill, Rep. Marti Anderson, D-Des Moines, called it “mean-spirited” because the Legislature has inadequately funded the crime lab.

  • The House approved a bill to schedule school bond referendums at the same time as general elections in November.
  • Gov. Kim Reynolds signed bill giving Iowa school districts a 1 percent increase in state aid — about $67 per student.

The $32 million boost in state funding for K-12 schools, signed by Reynolds on Wednesday, will increase the per-pupil investment from the current $6,664 to $6,731 for fiscal 2019.

At 1 percent, 183 of the state’s 333 school districts will be on the budget guarantee that means the state will backfill property taxes.

Legislators also agreed to make a one-year commitment to appropriating $11.2 million for busing students to and from school and to also devote $2.8 million to addressing an inequity in per-pupil funding.

  • A bill to extend the 1 percent sales tax to support school infrastructure and property tax relief until 2050 advanced in the House Education Committee.

The extension of the sales tax would put $16 billion in the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education — or SAVE — fund by 2050, supporters said.

Local districts use the tax to pay for physical plant and equipment improvements, educational and recreation programs and other authorized infrastructure projects.

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Statehouse reporter for The Courier

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