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Iowa House passes 1% increase in school aid

DES MOINES | Iowa school districts would get a 1 percent increase in supplemental state aid — about $67 per student — floor the next academic year under a plan approved Wednesday by Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

However, the bill took a detour en route to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk to become law when senators voted 50-0 to bump up the $32 million commitment to base K-12 school budgets by adding another $14 million to begin addressing inequities in funding for transportation costs and per-pupil money that affects both rural and urban districts.

Majority GOP senators then voted 29-21 to approve the amended version of House File 2230 and send it back to the House, which must act on the measure Thursday to meet the statutory deadline of setting K-12 state aid.

Earlier Wednesday, the House voted 57-40 along party lines to approve the $32 million state aid piece.

“This bill is about promises and it’s about making sure that we keep our promises,” said Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee and floor manager of the $46 million bill. “It is a reasonable and practical promise to fund the educations of the next generation and it’s a promise that can be kept. We’re setting our priority and our budget is showing it.”

But Democrats in both chambers said the $32 million increase in K-12 funding falls far short of what schools need and what the state can afford. The Revenue Estimating Conference projects a 4 percent increase in state revenues in fiscal 2019.

K-12 education now gets about 43 percent of the state’s $7 billion-plus general fund budget, which members of both parties say reflects the priority Iowans, including lawmakers, put on primary education.

“If that’s true and our revenues are projected to go up 4 percent, 43 percent (of that 4 percent increase) should go to K-12,” said Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, a retired teacher. Such a ratio would provide a $124.5 million increase.

Sen. Rita Hart, D-Wheatland, likened the GOP legislation to “a poorly written lesson plan — the objective is clear but the methods will have poor results,” noting the bill was less than the 1.5 percent increase that Reynolds had sought earlier in her budget blueprint.

“I think everybody in this chamber realizes that Iowa’s budget is in a mess. But instead of fixing that mess, your legislation busts the budgets of our local schools, your legislation limits the opportunities of Iowa children and that will hurt Iowa’s economic growth for years to come,” Hart added.

At an increase of 1 percent, 183 of the state’s 333 school districts still will need the state to backfill some money for education that otherwise would come from local property taxes, critics noted. But House Education Appropriations Committee Chairman Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mount Ayr, said that’s only four more districts that need the backfill than now.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said Iowa’s K-12 education is starting to slip due to inadequate state funding, saying “we’ll hear a lot of this brave talk and bold plans in this election year” in challenging Republicans to “put your money where your mouth is.”

“It’s one thing to put a schoolhouse on the Iowa quarter,” he said, “the real test, however, is putting a few more of those quarters on the table to invest in our kids’ futures. This bill simply does not get the job done.”

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70th annual Mohawk Follies opens Thursday in Mason City

MASON CITY | The Mason City High School Vocal Music Department will presents the 70th annual edition of The Follies, with performances this week. 

The performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8; 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11, at North Iowa Community Auditorium in Mason City.

The theme this year is “Millennial Music,” a salute to pop music from the 1990s through the present.

Selections include songs such as “This Is Me,” from the film “The Greatest Showman,” as well as recent hits from Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake. There will be music for all ages to enjoy, from rock to jazz.

The production will feature a variety of ensembles and performing acts including three show choirs, two instrumental ensembles, dancers, vocalists and comedy skits. More than 225 students are involved in this year’s showcase of area talent.

“Follies is a wonderful educational experience for the students," said Joel Everist, director of choral activities for Mason City Community Schools, said in a news release. 

Everist said hundreds of hours go in to preparing the show, as rehearsals begin in October.

Students are responsible for preparing, auditioning and staging the acts, as well as technical aspects of the show, Everist added. 

Unofficially known as America’s longest running high school variety show, the Follies has its roots in productions that began at Mason City High School more than 100 years ago.

Meredith Willson composed tunes and performed for an early version of the school variety show in 1918.

Over the years the production has involved more than 20,000 students, under various names such as “Curtain Call” and “Footlight Fantasy,” until it took on its current format of the Follies in 1948.

Tickets are available in advance from Mason City High School's main office and the customer service desk at Mason City Hy-Vee stores. 

Advance tickets are $7 for senior citizens/children under 12 and $9 for adults. Tickets are $8 and $10 at the door. Advance purchase is strongly encouraged as performances traditionally sell out.

Visit for more information. 

Trump flirts with flashy military parade long eschewed by US

WASHINGTON — For generations, as America's authoritarian rivals strutted their tanks, troops and jets through main thoroughfares in dramatic displays of strength, the United States watched from afar, but did not emulate.

Widely accepted as the world's mightiest, the U.S. military has no tradition of putting itself on parade like in Russia, North Korea or China. But President Donald Trump does not often stand on tradition. So Trump's directive to the Pentagon to draft options for a massive march reverberated across Washington on Wednesday like the thud of a discharged cannon, as lawmakers and military leaders mused about the cost, the risk and the purpose.

"People will wonder, 'Well, what are they afraid of now? What are they trying to prove?'" Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia in Congress, said in an interview. "We don't have to show off to make a point."

It was a critique voiced by both Democrats and Republicans the day after The Washington Post revealed Trump wants an elaborate parade this year to rival the Bastille Day celebration in Paris that made a distinct impression on him in July. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin called it a "fantastic waste of money," while Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN that the parade risked being "kind of cheesy and a sign of weakness" if it's just about showing off military muscle.

The president did not seem deterred, although his aides rushed to downplay the notion that it was anything beyond an idea Trump had floated "in a brainstorming session" to help Americans express gratitude and pride for the military. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there had been no final decision. And Trump's legislative director said it was too early to even guess about potential costs, though it's assumed it would cost millions.

"We've been putting together some options. We'll send them up to the White House for a decision," said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as reporters peppered him with questions at the White House. "The president's respect, his fondness for the military I think is reflected in him asking for these options."

In the nation's capital, officials were scrambling to identify potential implications for such a parade, such as whether D.C. streets could even accommodate heavyweight tanks and other equipment. On its official Twitter account, Washington's city council openly trolled the commander in chief, declaring that despite wintry weather, "DC Public Schools will open on time today. Sadly, the Giant Tank Parade is cancelled. Permanently."

Holmes Norton told The Associated Press that she was already preparing steps to ensure that "if Trump wants a parade, he pays for it." Still, she conceded there was little chance of blocking a parade permit from being issued, given the First Amendment right to free assembly.

Although U.S. troops commonly participate in parades on the Fourth of July and other holidays, especially those honoring veterans, the United States has never embraced raw displays of military power, such as North Korea's parading of ballistic missiles. The idea is that the world's pre-eminent military is strongest when its might is inferred, not shown off in boastful fashion or in an implicit threat to foreign powers.

"We have avoided doing this kind of display, in part to emphasize that contrast because this has been so commonplace in authoritarian countries," said Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. "For some presidents, it's sometimes a strategic act: Speak quietly while carrying a big stick," as President Theodore Roosevelt famously advised.

The last time Washington saw anything similar to what Trump is considering was in June 1991, after the Gulf War, as Americans gave veterans of Operation Desert Storm a triumphant welcome home. Some 8,000 veterans marched along with tanks that trudged down a flag-festooned Constitution Avenue as fighter planes roared over the National Mall.

Some 800,000 gathered in the crowd, the U.S. Park Police said at the time. President George H.W. Bush declared it a "great day."

Although Trump's critics argued his parade idea was rooted in a need for self-aggrandizement, the White House said it was squarely an attempt to venerate America's military. Jonny Havens, a U.S. army veteran who said he served in Iraq, called that sentiment "right on."

"I trust President Trump, Defense Department, Secretary Mattis to do it in the right way, and do it in a way that makes sense and is cost effective," Havens said.

But Shaun Theriot-Smith, another Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the idea smacked "of the very things we make fun of North Korea for."

Trump first publicly floated his idea last September at a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, as he reminisced about watching France's Bastille Day military parade. He said the two-hour parade was a "tremendous thing for France and for the spirit of France," and said he wanted one on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington on July 4 — grander than the one he saw in Paris.


Remains of Northwood woman found in vehicle in rural Davis County

BLOOMFIELD | The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and other authorities are investigating the events surrounding the discovery of remains of a Northwood woman found in her car in rural Davis County late last month.

The human remains, identified as the body of 63-year-old Sharon Kay Moritz, were found in the area of 27772 Vetch Avenue in Pulaski, just after 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 27, according to an Iowa Department of Public Safety press release.

Moritz, who had family in the Davis County area, was found in a 2006 white Chevrolet four-door Impala. According to the release, local deputies responded to a 911 call around 10:30 about a burned out car in rural Davis County, which was found by a local farmer.

Moritz's remains were transported to the Office of the State Medical Examiner in Ankeny.

"The autopsy will be conducted this week and results from the autopsy will be released at a later date," the press release stated. The full autopsy results won't be completed for about four to six weeks.

Currently, the Davis County Sheriff's office, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, State Fire Marshall's office, Iowa Department of Transportation, Davis County Attorney and the Office of State Medical Examiner are investigating the case.

Those departments are asking for the public's help in this investigation. Anyone with information can contact the Davis County Law Enforcement Center at 641-664-2385.