We surveyed superintendents across Iowa last week and they delivered a strong message: lawmakers and the Governor must move quickly to avoid teacher layoffs, crowded classrooms and harm to student achievement.

Here are just a few highlights:

· 87% said that aid to local schools must be set by March 1st or they will have to plan for zero growth because their budget must be certified by April

· 99% said education dollars would be used more effectively if the state returned to setting basic aid to education a year and a half in advance as required by law now

· If Republicans do nothing again this year or insist on zero growth: larger class sizes (72%); delays in upgrading materials (68%), layoffs of teachers (57%) and layoffs of classroom associates (51%)

It's been a rough few years for schools with the economic recession that began in 2008 and historically low or no growth in state aid. We can't ask schools to do more when they can't keep up with the basics like rising health care, transportation, and energy costs.

We're already a year behind and schools are waiting for us to do our job. We've already begun work on the Governor's education reform plans but it may take months to reach consensus. There's no need to use state aid for our schools as a bargaining chip for education reform.

This week, the Senate Democrats took quick action and sent a bill over to the House. It sets allowable growth at 4% and provides extra state resources to school districts so they can hold the line on property taxes.

I will be urging my colleagues in the House to take action quickly and send the bill to the Governor. There's no time to waste.

Main Street Iowa Symposium Held

On January 31, I attended the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) symposium on the benefits and economic impact of the Main Street Iowa program.

Donovan Rypkema, the principal of Place Economics, presented his findings from a recent study on the economic impacts of the Main Street Iowa program. Rypkema's study looked at 26 years of data and stressed the benefit of revitalizing main streets and the importance of historic preservation.

IEDA's Main Street Iowa program assists participating communities with a goal of economic development within historic commercial districts. Since Main Street Iowa began in 1986, the 48 Main Street districts have seen a net gain of 11,574 jobs created and over a billion dollars of investment in district buildings. .

I'm proud to have two Main Street communities, Elkader and West Union, in my district.

For more information on Iowa's Main Street program visit http://www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/MainStreetIowa

If you have any questions on legislative issues, please contact me at roger.thomas@legis.iowa.gov or 515-281-3221. Also, let me know if you plan to visit the capitol during the session, I would be glad to give you a tour.