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Statehouse News January 29, 2015

Education in Iowa
The first bill up for debate this year was school funding. The week started with a public hearing at the State Capitol to get input from Iowans regarding a school funding plan offered by the Governor.

Iowans turned out in force with near unanimous opposition to the Governor’s plan. Students, school leaders, teachers, and parents all told legislators the 1.25% increase in school funding is inadequate and would lead to higher class sizes, an increase in property taxes, and fewer opportunities for Iowa students. Their plan will shortchange our children and Iowa’s future.
Despite the strong opposition, House Republicans brought up the Governor’s plan for a vote and sent it to the Senate. It’s clear Republicans weren’t listening to the Iowans who came to the State Capitol to give testimony.

I supported a plan to provide a 6% increase in basic state aid for local schools. After years of stagnant funding, it’s the right thing to do to help our schools. Iowa per pupil funding is $1600 below the national average. We can do better for Iowa’s students.

Iowa is in a strong financial position and we will end the year with over $1 billion in surplus and reserves. Our plan to invest in our youth; a 6% increase in school aid will keep the state budget balanced, leave the state’s savings accounts full, and leave Iowa with a $200 million surplus.

State Butterfly Proposal (HJR2): Regal Fritillary
Conservationists from around the state, including Reiman Garden’s Butterfly Curator, Nathan Brockman, came together to recommend Iowa adopt an Official State Butterfly. Forty-six states have an official state insect or butterfly. Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Rhode Island have no state insect/butterfly.

The Regal Fritillary is the butterfly being proposed for our state butterfly. There are approximately 116 butterfly species in Iowa. The Regal Fritillary rose to the top as it is native to Iowa, large, identifiable and beautiful, Common to prairies which is Iowa’s native biome, found state wide, has some conservation needs (listed as a species of concern but the population is stable in the state) and has a wonderful education lifecycle story.

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Regal Fritillary Butterfly

Regal Fritillary Lifecycle story. There is only one generation a year. Each fall females have to lay their eggs in tall grass prairies. Unfortunately for the females, their host plant, bird’s foot violet and prairie violet, died back to the ground. So, not only do the female Regal Fritillary have to dive bomb through and then crawl their way through the dried fall tall grass and then crawl their way to the ground, they have to use chemical volatiles left from where the plant died back from to lay their eggs as close as possible to where the violets will emerge the following spring.

The eggs hatch in late fall, the new first instar caterpillars eat their eggs and then will eat nothing else until the following spring. Which mean the caterpillars have to survive an Iowa winter folded up in the leaf litter on the ground having only eaten their egg shell and nothing else until the following spring when the violet finally come up out to the ground, that is one tough caterpillar.

In early spring, the caterpillars eat the violet leaves and go through six instars, this is unique as most species of butterflies go through five instars before pupating.

Adults emerge in early summer; males and females fly around for several weeks and eventually mate. After mating, the females tend to go into a summer diapause which helps them survive often hot and dry parts of the summer, until fall when they begin laying their eggs and the process starts all over again.

Quote of the week: Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. Nathaniel Hawthorne