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Debate over school funding includes claims of cuts to literacy programs

News

February 10th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

A debate over funding for K-12 education in the Iowa Senate yesterday (Tuesday) included claims that many schools could be forced to cut their literacy programs. Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, cited the results of a survey that Democratic lawmakers sent to school superintendents. It asked how they would respond if the legislature failed to provide a “decent increase” in school aid.

“Particularly shocking, cut back in literacy programs, 43-percent are telling us they would have to cut back in literacy programs,” Quirmbach said. Democrats, who control the Senate, pushed through a bill that would boost K-12 aid by four-percent for the 2017-18 academic year. Quirmbach said that level of an increase is needed to keep Iowa students from falling behind their peers in other states.

“If we don’t provide adequate funding…43-percent of the districts will actually be cutting back on literacy programs at the time when they should be increasing the literacy programs,” Quirmbach said. Senator Julian Garrett was shocked by Quirmbach’s remarks. The Republican from Indianola said school leaders, if necessary, should be able to find many other areas to make budget cuts.

“They need to spend the money on…a higher priority than teaching kids to read? That just floors me,” Garrett said. “I cannot understand schools saying that reading is not the big priority for us. If that is the basis for this proposal, count me out. I am voting no.” The House and Senate have still not settled on the level of school funding for next year. Tuesday’s debate in the Senate was over K-12 funding for the FOLLOWING school year, starting in the fall of 2017.

(Radio Iowa)

Another western IA Superintendent looks for a change

News

February 10th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Another western Iowa school district Superintendent is looking to make a change. On Monday, the Clarinda School Board accepted the upcoming resignation of its superintendent, Paul Honnold. That same day evening, Riverside Superintendent Jim Sutton presented his resignation before the Riverside School Board. Both men’s resignations are effective June 30th. And, now, according to the Daily NonPareil, Tri-Center Superintendent Tony Weers is getting ready to pack-up and move this summer from Neola to Omaha, where he will become the director of secondary education for Millard Public Schools.

Weers submitted his resignation at a special school board meeting held Jan. 25th. The school board hired a professional, central Iowa head hunting firm for $3,000 to conduct a search, with applications due this upcoming Monday. A special school board meeting will be held that evening at Tri-Center to review applications in a closed session.

Weers said he has been having a lot of conversations about his decision to leave after only two years. He cited multiple family and work-related reasons in making his decision to leave the Tri-Center District. Weers initially came to Tri-Center from the Westside Community Schools in Omaha. He replaced Brett Nanninga, Tri-Center’s former superintendent of 26 years, who left for the Iowa High School Athletic Association.

Weers is paid about $122,000 and his contract runs through June 30. The school district serves about 750 students across Neola, Minden, Persia, Beebeetown and surrounding communities.

Also in western Iowa, Woodbine and Boyer Valley are also discussing the status of its shared superintendent, Doug Gee, who the Boyer Valley school board wants to return to full-time service in Dunlap and Dow City for the 2016-17 school year.

Pott. County man convicted in Mills County burglary case

News

February 10th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

A Council Bluffs man received a suspended sentence and probation for his role in a burglary in Mills County. The Daily NonPareil reports 39-year old Willard E. Frazier, was convicted in Mills County court on Monday of third-degree burglary, a Class D felony.  Fourth District Court Judge James Heckerman sentenced Frazier to five years in prison, all of which was suspended. He placed Frazier on formal probation for two years.

The Mills County Attorney’s Office said in mid-January of 2015, Frazier broke into the Junction Bar in Pacific Junction, damaging a door on the east side of the building in the process. Frazier pried open several video games and removed the money from them. He also took a tabletop game and an ATM from the premises.

Iowa early News Headlines: Wed/ 2/10/16

News

February 10th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — A Newton jury has convicted a man of helping his mother stab his wife to death in 2013. Jurors handed over the verdict finding 40-year-old Dustin Jefferson guilty of aiding and abetting first-degree murder in the death of his wife. His mother, Ginger Jefferson, is serving life in prison for first-degree murder in the September 2013 attack of 32-year-old Kerry O’Clair Jefferson.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Linn County will soon have to find a new home for thousands of court documents that are being stored in a rented space. The city of Cedar Rapids is working to buy the Hubbard Ice building, where the county stores up to 700,000 court documents, and will likely demolish it to make room for a flood wall. The county spends nearly $50,000 annually to rent the space, but it doesn’t have a choice. State code says the county must keep civil case files for 10 years after settlement and criminal case files for 10 years after a completed sentence.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Some Republican House lawmakers are supporting legislation that would create a system for manufacturing, distributing and possessing some forms of medical marijuana in Iowa, though it’s unclear what type of support the bill will get from party leaders. The bill would expand the state’s current law on medical marijuana, which allows some epilepsy patients to use cannabis oil. The new legislation would expand it to include more products and patients, though it would prohibit the smoking of medical marijuana.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Police have identified the man who was found inside a fire-damaged Des Moines home after he resisted officers’ rescue attempts. Police announced that 48-year-old Neil Johnston, of Des Moines, died during the incident. Firefighters sent to the home put out the blaze and found Johnston’s body. Investigators say the fire was intentionally started.

Iowa Senate approves 4% increase in aid for schools in 2017-18

News

February 9th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Democrats who control the Iowa Senate pushed through a bill today (Tuesday) that would increase state aid to public schools by four-percent for the 2017-18 academic year. Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, is chairman of the Iowa Senate Education Committee. “It is long past due that this body and our colleagues in the House, in cooperation with the governor, reinvest in Iowa’s education,” Quirmbach said.

The House and Senate are still at odds over school funding for next year, so it’s unclear what a four-percent increase would translate to in actual dollars for the 2017-18 school year. But, Quirmbach calculates that over the last five years, when adjusted for inflation, Iowa’s per-pupil spending has increased by just $6. “Six dollars over five years…an increase of 0.1% — not per year — that’s total, over five years,” Quirmbach said.

Quirmbach also cited the results of a survey that Democrats in the legislature sent to school superintendents. “Over 90-percent of our school superintendents and principals are telling us that without a decent increase (in state aid), class sizes will increase — meaning that individual students, our children and grandchildren, will not get the individual attention that they need and that they deserve,” Quirmbach said.

Senator Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton, said while she supports the effort to address school funding in a timely manner, lawmakers should resolve the dispute over spending for the coming school year first. “For me, we need to make sure that we have an understanding of what we’re funding for (fiscal year) 2017 before I feel we can appropriately budget for FY 2018 because the one compounds from the other,” Sinclair said.

According to Sinclair, approving state aid to schools for 2018 before setting the funding for 2017 could ultimately hurt taxpayers. “They put us in a position of either overpromising and underfunding or passing those bills back on to property tax payers,” Sinclair said. A House-Senate conference committee is set to debate school funding for the 2016-17 academic year. Senate Democrats also support a four-percent increase for that year, while Republicans who control the House favor a two-percent spending increase.

(Radio Iowa)

Council Bluffs death investigation

News

February 9th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Police in Council Bluffs said Tuesday, no evidence of foul play was found following a fatal house fire Saturday evening. The blaze at 2722 Avenue H was reported at around 5:38-p.m. During their initial sweep of the home, Fire Department personnel located the body of a deceased man inside a bedroom. Through the use of fingerprint records, we were able to positively identify the man as 25 year old Koua Moua.

The home at 2722 Avenue H was being leased by Moua at the time of the fire. Members of the Department’s Criminal Investigation Division have been working with the Fire Department’s Fire Investigators to determine the cause of the fire and Moua’s death.

The investigation of the fire indicates that it was started in the bedroom in which Moua’s body was located and that an accelerant was used. The fire itself was contained to that room and a doorway leading into the living room. Evidence from the autopsy indicates that Moua died from injuries he sustained during the fire and that he had no other forms of injury or trauma.

4 arrested in Harlan after search warrant executed

News

February 9th, 2016 by Chris Parks

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office along with the Harlan Police Department arrested 4 men on various charges after executing a search warrant on Monday.  Officers served the search warrant at 611 5th Street in Harlan and discovered a firearm, a controlled substance (methamphetamine), and drug paraphernalia.

Officers arrested 37-year old Benjamin Allmon of Harlan and charged him with Felon in Possession of a Firearm, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Gathering where Controlled Substances are kept, and Prohibited acts.

Also arrested was 22-year old Zachery Kloewer of Harlan.  He was charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Unlawful Possession of Prescription Drugs.

38-year-old Justin Stevens of Ogden was arrested and charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Unlawful Possession of Prescription Drugs.

25-year old Marcus Blunt of Rockwell City was also arrested and charged with Gathering where Controlled Substances are kept.

All subjects were taken to the Shelby County Jail and booked in.  Bond was set at $5,000 for Allmon and Blunt, and at 1,000 for Kloewer and Stevens.

Police release name of Sioux City officer shot over weekend

News

February 9th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Sioux City police have identified the officer who was shot by a suspect during a weekend arrest. Police Chief Doug Young announced Monday that 42-year-old officer Ryan Moritz suffered a gunshot wound to his thigh during a Sunday morning arrest. He is expected to make a full recovery.

The incident happened when officers were following up on a number of reported robberies and burglaries. Police accused 18-year-old Isiah Mothershed of shooting Moritz and shooting himself in the leg during a struggle with police.

Mothershed was treated Monday at Mercy Medical Center, which declined to say Tuesday if he’d been released. Mothershed was charged with two counts of attempted murder and five counts of robbery.

Some Republicans announce support for medical marijuana bill

News

February 9th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Some Republican House lawmakers are supporting legislation that would create a system for manufacturing, distributing and possessing some forms of medical marijuana in Iowa, though it’s unclear what type of support the bill will get from party leaders.

The bill would expand the state’s current law on medical marijuana, which allows some epilepsy patients to use cannabis oil. The new legislation would expand it to include more products and patients, though it would prohibit the smoking of medical marijuana.

Rep. Peter Cownie, chairman of the House Commerce Committee, discussed the bill during a press conference Tuesday while surrounded by a handful of Republican lawmakers. The West Des Moines Republican was vague when asked about the bill’s support within his caucus. He asked lawmakers to keep an open mind.

Adams County investigation leads to arrests

News

February 9th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Adams County Sheriff’s Department reports an ongoing investigation into incidents that date back to last year has resulted in felony charges being filed against two people. Fred Almaguer and Jonnie Weeks were arrested Feb. 7th and charged with Distribution to person under the age of 18 on certain real property, a Class-B Felony. Almaguer and Weeks were brought to the Adams County Jail and held on $25,000 cash bond, each.

Jonnie Weeks was also arrested Feb. 4th on an Adams County Warrant for Possession of a Controlled Substance. Almaguer was originally arrested January 28th, following a traffic stop. After further investigation, Almaguer was arrested for Possession of a Controlled Substance and Possession of Paraphernalia.