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Newscast 05.25.23: Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg visits Iowa airport infrastructure project in Cedar Rapids; IA school program has outside operator Odyssey handling details

Expansion project at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids
Expansion project at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was in Cedar Rapids today (THURSDAY) to see the Biden Administration’s infrastructure dollars at work. The Eastern Iowa Airport is in the final phases of a redesign to prepare it for the next 30 years of air travel. The airport got $20-million in federal dollars – that accounts for 17% of the project’s estimated sticker price.

Located off Wright Brothers Boulevard, Buttigieg says it was a fitting reminder that flight began in the Midwest.

It’s appropriate then that Americans ought have the best air travel in the world, but we’ve been slipping. We’ve been slipping as a country because of decades of under investment.

The $1 trillion-dollar 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law put $25 billion towards airports. U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley was the sole Iowa Republican to vote for the bill.

The New York-based company that will operate Iowa’s new state-funded private school financial assistance program will be paid $4.3 million over the first six years, according to the terms of the contract with the state and the Sioux City Journal. https://siouxcityjournal.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/n-y-company-to-be-paid-4-3-million-to-run-iowa-s-private-school/article_dd5f68b4-8c57-5966-9573-87aa694bc0dd.html

Odyssey was chosen by the state through a competitive bidding process, and the company will be paid from the state’s general fund budget, the governor’s office said.

The company operates similar programs in Arizona and Idaho. This week the company began educating Iowa parents through a series of webinars about the new state program, which is projected to ultimately cost the state $107 million in the first year and $345 million annually at full implementation.

Under the new law, Iowans will be eligible for state funding equal to the amount of state per-pupil funding for K-12 public education, which for the 2023-2024 school year will be roughly $7,600, to pay for attending a private school.

The Iowa Legislature
The Iowa Legislature

The new program passed with only Republican support in the Iowa Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds, who had pushed for similar measures in previous years and made it a centerpiece of her 2022 re-election campaign.

The Sioux Falls School District is offering $10,000 starting bonuses to new special education teachers in an effort to fill those understaffed roles in time for the start of the next school year, according to the Argus Leader.

However, some teachers don’t feel the incentives are fair to veteran special education teachers who will get $2,000 stipends this upcoming school year and the next when they stay with the district in their classrooms. Two of these teachers made their opinions known during Monday night’s school board meeting.

Iowa appears to have bucked a national trend of rising suicide rates in recent years. While more people across the country took their own lives in 2021 compared to 2020, a report from a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization finds suicide rates dropped during that period in Iowa, according to Radio Iowa.

Senior government relations manager at Trust for America’s Health.Brandon Reavis tells Radio Iowa that the state saw a three-percent drop in Iowa’s overall suicide rates, while the overall increase in the national level was four-percent.

increase in rates for the national level was four-percent. Reavis says it’s hard to specify why Iowa’s suicide rate fell while most other states saw an increase.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is expanding its focus as we head into summer to remind people not to drink and drive while using boats and ATV’s.

MADD regional director, Erin Payton, says the number of incidents off the highways has increased and they want to remind people about safety. She says boats and ATV’s can pose different challenges than driving a car on a highway that is laid out flat and marked.

The swimming beach at Little Sioux Park near Correctionville will remain closed until further notice because of low water levels, the Woodbury County Conservation Board tells the Sioux City Journal.

Low water levels have reduced the zero-entry beach area, causing sudden drop-offs and unsafe swimming conditions at the beach, which usually opens on Memorial Day weekend.

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