Northwest Iowa — After this week’s signing of Governor Kim Reynolds’ “School Choice” bill into law, northwest Iowa public school superintendents are unsure to hopeful about the future.

The new law is expected to give $345 million to parents to send their students to private schools. It will provide state-funded accounts for the parents of private school students. In the first year, low-income parents who enroll a child in a private school could apply for nearly $7600 in state funding to cover tuition, computers, textbooks, and tutoring. In 2026, all private school parents could apply for the state money. According to school officials, the $7600 represents the entire amount that the district gets from the state per pupil, per year. However, the districts will get $1200 per year per pupil for pupils whose parents have elected to send them to private schools instead. Interestingly enough, depending on the district and the number of pupils CURRENTLY enrolled in private schools, it might mean an INCREASE in funding in some districts.

Sheldon Community School District Superintendent Cory Myer says, “I believe most families appreciate the high quality of education we provide in Sheldon and our families feel good about the choice they made when they enrolled in our school district.”

Sibley/Ocheyedan Community School District Superintendent James Craig says, “I really don’t have an indication about families moving to private school. Our conversations with parents are usually for open enrollment or homeschooling, so I have no idea where that will go for us.”

West Lyon Superintendent Shawn Kremen says, “It’s so hard to predict at this point, I don’t know that it will impact us a whole lot at this point, but again not sure.”

Central Lyon Superintendent Brent Jorth says, “It’s hard for me to estimate how many families will opt to attend a private school, because the choice is truly the private school’s to make. From my perspective, Central Lyon will continue to fulfill its mission to provide an exceptional education, opportunities, and resources for all students to become productive, life-long learners. Our families are very fortunate to have a teaching staff that is dedicated to empowering students to achieve at high levels as demonstrated in a track record of academic success and career readiness. Our school board and staff will continue to partner with families and our community to provide students with learning opportunities in and out of the classroom that will prepare them to be life-long learners, productive members of the community, and responsible citizens.”

Boyden-Hull Superintendent Steve Grond says, “I don’t know how it will impact Boyden-Hull and surrounding schools. We offer an excellent education at Boyden-Hull for all students, which we will continue to deliver. Overall, I believe that students and parents are pleased with the education they receive while at Boyden-Hull.”

MOC/Floyd Valley Superintendent Russ Adams says, “I am hopeful that our families recognize the outstanding quality of education they are receiving for their children at MOC-Floyd Valley, but time will tell.”

Current Sibley/Ocheyedan Superintendent, Mr. James Craig

Sibley, Iowa — The superintendent of the Sibley-Ocheydan Community School District has tendered his resignation, and the Sibley-Ocheyedan School Board is seeking his replacement.

Kyle Grimes is the chair of the school board. He says Superintendent James Craig’s last day is June 30th.

Grimes talks about their timeline for the hiring process.

According to Grimes, it is their hope that they can get someone hired who will start on July 1st. He says they have not considered an interim superintendent, and if all goes well, they won’t have to.

Lenexa, Kansas — A Sibley auto repair shop will have to pay tens of thousands of dollars after they were caught selling what are called “defeat devices.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, Turbocharged Performance LLC will pay a $30,000 civil penalty for allegedly tampering with car engines to render emissions controls inoperative, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. According to the EPA, the company sold or installed so-called “defeat devices” on at least 581 occasions.

David Cozad, director of EPA Region 7’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division says, “The installation of defeat devices or any illegal tampering of auto emissions controls is both a violation of federal law and a significant contributor of harmful air pollution. The federal government is serious about holding accountable individuals and companies who profit from these unlawful actions.”

In addition to paying the civil penalty, Turbocharged Performance will be prohibited from selling defeat devices and is required to destroy any remaining defeat devices under the company’s control.

EPA officials tell us tampering with car engines, including installation of aftermarket defeat devices intended to bypass manufacturer emissions controls, results in significantly higher releases of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, both of which contribute to serious public health problems in the United States. They tell us these problems include premature mortality, aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, aggravation of existing asthma, acute respiratory symptoms, chronic bronchitis, and decreased lung function. Numerous studies also link diesel exhaust to increased incidence of lung cancer. Further, emission control tampering impedes federal, state, and local efforts to implement air quality standards that protect public health.

Des Moines, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds has signed her “School Choice Plan” bill into law. It is expected to give $345 million to parents to send their students to private schools.

One of only three Republican senators to vote “no” on the bill was a state senator that represents a portion of our area. District 3 Republican State Senator Lynn Evans voted against the bill. Iowa Senate District 3 consists of all of O’Brien, Osceola, and Buena Vista counties, along with most of Clay and Cherokee counties. Evans is the former superintendent of the Alta-Aurelia Community School District.

Most Republicans in the Iowa legislature have voted for Governor Kim Reynolds’ top 2023 priority — a bill that will provide state-funded accounts for the parents of private school students.

Republican Representative John Wills of Spirit Lake opened Monday’s House debate by saying the bill is about freedom.

Democrats like Representative Sue Cahill of Marshalltown say the choice is up to private school administrators since nothing requires private schools to accept all students.

After five and a half hours of debate, the bill cleared the House on a 55 to 45 vote. Senators debated in earnest for about three hours, passing the bill just before 12:30 this (Tuesday) morning on a 31-to-18 vote. Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, says state funds will now follow a child to the school that best fits their needs.

Representative Thomas Moore of Griswold opposes the governor’s two, less expansive “school choice” proposals and he is one of nine House Republicans who voted against this year’s proposal.

Three Republican Senators opposed the plan. Representative Skyler Wheeler, a Republican from Hull who backed the bill, says public school parents got frustrated during the pandemic and asked for this alternative.

Representative Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City, disagreed.

In the first year, low-income parents who enroll a child in a private school could apply for nearly $7600 in state funding to cover tuition, computers, textbooks, and tutoring. In 2026, all private school parents could apply for the state money. Representative Austin Baeth, a Democrat from Des Moines, says an estimated 79 percent of the money will be spent on kids already enrolled in private schools.

Wills says if Iowans didn’t want school choice, they wouldn’t have expanded the Republican majorities in the legislature — and would not have reelected Governor Reynolds by a 19-point margin.

All Democrats in the legislature voted against the bill. Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls says the governor’s plan is Robin Hood in reverse.

Reynolds held a private ceremony in her formal office Monday to mark the start of “School Choice Week.”

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Northwest Iowa — The latest unemployment numbers show Lyon and Sioux counties continue to have the lowest unemployment in the state. Meanwhile, the latest numbers available show the state unemployment rate held steady at three-point-one percent in December.

Iowa Workforce Development director, Beth Townsend, says there were some positive signs as the year wrapped up.

The labor force participation rate dropped slightly as Townsend says about 17-hundred people dropped out of the workforce.

Townsend says the state entered 2023 on good footing in the face of some ongoing national issues.

Employers continue to cite the need for more skilled workers, and she says that’s one thing Iowa Workforce Development will continue working on.

She says there are a lot of good programs trying to create employee pipelines that are crucial to fixing the workforce crisis employers face.

The latest numbers available for local unemployment are those from November. Workforce officials remind us that these numbers are not seasonally adjusted.

Sioux County remains the county with the lowest unemployment in the state, at 1.7 percent, unchanged from the previous month. Lyon County has the second-lowest unemployment, at 1.9 percent, up a tenth of a percent from the previous month, when it was 1.8 percent. Unemployment in Osceola and O’Brien counties remains low as well. Osceola County’s unemployment was at 2.0 percent in November, up from 1.8 percent in October. And in O’Brien County, unemployment is at 2.4 percent, up from 2.1 percent the month before.

January 19, 2023 - 5:02 pm - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — Emerald Ash Borer is an Asian insect that kills ash trees and has now been confirmed in all but three of the 99 counties in Iowa.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Communication Director, Don McDowell tells KIWA that Osceola County was one of six counties that had no confirmation for this insect. Today, January 19th, the department has confirmed that 96 counties now have an infestation. He says the insect sample that was sent to them was collected from Melvin. They also confirmed infestations in Monona County and Woodbury County at the same time.

According to McDowell, these insects are a significant threat to ash trees that are native to Iowa and once a tree is infected, usually it will take two to four years for that tree to die. He says it takes this long because the larvae feed on the inner side of the bark.

McDowell tells us that indications of an infestation may include canopy thinning, leafy sprouts shooting from the trunk or main branches, bark splitting, and woodpecker damage. Other things that may be noticed are “s”-shaped galleries under the bark and 1/8-inch D-shaped exit holes.

He says adult beetles can bring larvae from tree to tree when they fly away, but another way to spread the infestations is through people. An example is when people move materials, such as firewood. He says it is better to use locally-sourced firewood.

McDowell says there are options to make sure you don’t get an infestation. One way is to use preventive insecticide on healthy ash trees. The best time to use the insecticides, according to McDowell, is in the spring between mid-April and mid-May.

The three counties that have not yet reported an infestation are Plymouth, Emmet, and Palo Alto counties.

For more information on Emerald Ash Borer treatments visit the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach website at https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/13114.

January 19, 2023 - 10:23 am - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — We did get some snow yesterday afternoon and overnight, but the amounts were generally less than expected.

Meteorologist Craig Cogil at the National Weather Service, says wide sections of the state did get heavy snow, but not the foot of snow that was expected in some areas.

Sheldon recorded five and a half inches of snow. Rock Rapids had six inches. Eight inches of snow was reported in George. Cogil says dozens of school districts are either on delays or have cancelled classes for the day and anyone who’s on the road will need to use great caution.

Cogil says the precipitation should be ending very soon.

Tow bans are in effect through the morning in several Iowa counties. For the latest road report go to 511ia.org. Patchy blowing snow is forecast for today for the Sheldon area, but for the next week, the only mention of precip at this point is just some flurries Sunday night and Monday.

Ashton, Iowa — Some hay bales in a shed were destroyed in a fire on Saturday, January 14, 2023, near Ashton.

According to Ashton Fire Assistant Chief Dave Otis, at about 12:55 p.m., the Ashton Fire Department was called to the report of a shed fire at 5379 220th Street, three miles east and a mile north of Ashton.

The chief says the fire department saw smoke coming out of the door as they approached the scene. He says they found that the building was not on fire, but hay bales inside the building were on fire. He tells us they pulled the bales outside with a rake and a skid loader and pulled them apart to extinguish the fire. Otis says it was a good thing the fire was caught and firefighters were called when they were, as the hay was against the wooden wall of the building.

Assistant Chief Otis says no injuries were reported.

The fire department was assisted by the Sibley Fire Department.

Otis says the owner told him they found the wiring from a heat lamp malfunctioned, causing the fire.

Assistant Chief Otis reports that the damage was limited to the bales.

He says the firefighters who responded were on the scene for about 45 minutes.

Northwest Iowa — A Spirit Lake man who is accused of sexual abuse in three cases in three separate counties has changed his pleas to guilty, just days before his first trial was to have begun.

According to court records filed with the Osceola, Dickinson, and Clay counties’ clerk of court’s offices, 54-year-old Stacy Lind of Spirit Lake faces charges of third-degree sexual abuse and lascivious acts with a child in all three counties and child endangerment in both Osceola and Dickinson counties, plus other charges. The sex abuse counts are all class C felonies.

If convicted, Lind could face up to 10 years in prison on each class C felony count, plus time for any other count still valid.

He had originally pleaded not guilty, so the change in plea would seem to indicate a plea agreement.

According to court records, the Clay County incident is alleged to have occurred in June 2020, while the Osceola and Dickinson county incidents are alleged to have occurred in late October 2021.

January 17, 2023 - 12:19 pm - Posted in News

Sibley, Iowa — The blood shortage continues in northwest Iowa.

With all the winter weather that has made its way through northwest Iowa, there have been a lot of blood drives canceled, which means there is still a severe shortage of blood. The Community Blood Mobile will be at Osceola Regional Health Center on Thursday, January 19th to hopefully make up some of the blood they lost out on.

The Community Blood Bank Executive Directory Ken Versteeg says to remember it is flu season.

He says that if you have had Covid recently, you must be five days symptom-free to give blood. If you are sick, or not feeling well, do not give blood. This is not healthy for the donor, according to Versteeg.

Donors must be at least 16 years old and weigh 110 pounds. A person can give blood every 56 days. Because of Covid, appointments are required.

The blood drive takes place on Thursday, January 19th from 9:00-4:30 p.m. Make your appointment to give blood at Osceola Regional Health Center by calling (712) 754-5358.

The hospitals in northwest Iowa solely get their blood from The Sioux Falls Community Blood Bank.