Republicans in the Iowa House propose giving Iowa high school seniors who’ve taken all the required classes for graduation the option of becoming a full-time college student — at the state’s expense. Republican House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City says the idea is to give those students the five-thousand dollars in state school aid that would be spent on their senior year in high school so they can use that money to pay college tuition.
“It’s not right for every student, and we’re not suggesting that it is, but (what) we are saying is that for some students, it may allow them to get a jump-start on their college education,” Rants says. The students could enroll at a community college, the public universities in Ames, Cedar Falls or Iowa City, or a private college in Iowa.
Rants says it would allow students to save some money and prove themselves on the college scene. Governor Tom Vilsack has been talking about steps the state could take to make high school more rigorous and more relevant. Rants says he hears from lots of parents who are worried their kids are just “coasting” through their senior year, and Rants says he knows from personal experience that can be the case. “Parts of my senior year were a waste,” Rants says. “At the time I didn’t think they were, but in retrospect there were things that maybe I should have been doing differently.”
The 52 Republicans in the House met yesterday (Monday) and the group also talked about ways to boost the use of ethanol and position the state as an energy creator. “You’re going to see this coming session Republicans talk about a much broader perspective on making Iowa more energy independent,” Rants says. On Monday morning, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle called for a mandate that all Iowa gas pumps dispense only ethanol-blended fuels. Nussle’s proposal will be a hard-sell to Republicans in the legislature like Rants. Rants says House Republicans want to find new ways to encourage the use of E-85 which is 85 percent ethanol rather than the 10 percent blend that’s widely available now in Iowa. “Where are we going to get our biggest bang for the buck?” Rants asks. “Why wouldn’t we want to have more Iowans burning E-85 in this state? I’m not trying to disagree with the Congressman,” Rant says. Our focus…has been a little broader in scope.”
To that end, Rants has asked researchers at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa to conduct a one-day seminar at the statehouse in January to debunk the “myths” about ethanol. Rants wants the researchers to address everything from ethanol’s fuel efficiency to how vehicle manufacturers view the fuel. Nussle has said requiring ethanol-blended fuel be the only fuel available at Iowa gas stations would open up at least one pump per station for E-85. But Rants says there are pricey tank conversion issues for the retailer, and those are some of the questions he and other legislators want the researchers to address.