Iowa City Press-Citizen. May 31, 2014.
New funding formula wrong for Iowa schools
The members of the Iowa state Board of Regents can't really be planning to vote on their new, controversial, proposed funding formula during the board's June meeting.
After all, even with unanimous board approval, the regents' funding recommendations really can't move forward without the concurrence of the Iowa Legislature and the governor. And the next General Assembly won't begin until two months after the Nov. 4 general election.
And so far, the reaction to the recommendations has been anything but unanimous — even among the task force charged with presenting the recommendations to the board. (To read the majority and minority reports of the Performance-Based Revenue Model Task Force, visit http://bit.ly/1k66jOI.)
Under the new formula, the regents would base the lion's share of funding on the percentage of in-state students at an institution and would flatten the allocation provided for each student — whether that student is an undergraduate majoring in philosophy, a graduate student studying biochemistry or an M.D./Ph.D. student participating in the most cutting-edge research while simultaneously receiving the highest quality clinical training.
Those recommendations make it seem that the regent leadership is trying to punish the University of Iowa and Iowa State University for being more research-focused and more attractive to out-of-state students than the University of Northern Iowa. If approved as written, UI faces having its annual budget slashed by up to $60 million.
The recommendations not only undervalue the role of research at UI and in the Iowa economy, but they flatly ignore how health sciences programs have higher costs than those in liberal arts and sciences. They also fail to acknowledge how the higher tuition costs for graduate and professional programs don't come anywhere near the actual educational costs borne by the university. (And if UI were to ratchet up tuition even further to make up for the decrease of state money, then even more newly graduated doctors, lawyers and dentists would be forced to leave the state to find jobs with salaries large enough to pay off their loans.)
So, given all the concerns over the unintended consequences of these recommendations, what's the rush?
If the regent leadership is determined to change the funding formula that has served the regents for the past 60 years, then they should take their time to make sure it's done correctly rather than just done quickly.
Even putting off a vote on the recommendations for a few more months would allow university personnel to present their already strong case for why the recommendations don't serve the best interests of higher education in Iowa. And with a little more time, maybe the full board would come to understand the full range of instructional costs attached to the different programs at different universities.
We aren't opposed to the regents developing more of a performance-based funding model, and we agree that the current funding formula needs to be tweaked to better provide for UNI. But the answer is not to try to make Iowa's three universities into cookie-cutter images of each other.
The regents say they want the universities to differentiate themselves, and the regents' efficiency consultants say they want to enhance the different academic culture of each university. But the recommended funding formula not only would incent all three universities to become more alike, it also would trigger an arms race as each of the three schools ramps up its efforts to recruit from among a finite number of college-bound Iowa graduates.
When this new funding proposal is presented during Wednesday's regent meeting, we hope it's the beginning of a months-long discussion ... and not just a chance for the proposal to receive a quick rubber stamp.
Quad-City Times. May 29, 2014.
Q-C will test vastly different medical marijuana laws
Don't even think about a slippery slope for medical marijuana in Iowa.
Iowa's new medical marijuana bill that Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law creates no growers, distributors or dispensaries like Illinois five-month-old law. There are no prescriptions to be filled.
Unlike Illinois' medicinal marijuana law, Iowa's new law focuses on one cannabis extract product for one specific medical condition. Now, a handful of Iowans will be allowed to possess a cannabis oil derivative that cannot cause intoxication in any dosage.
The law contains ample restrictions assuring it cannot create a slippery slope toward legalization, decriminalization or even further medical use. Iowans who have been seeing a neurologist for at least six months for intractable epilepsy may ask their doctor to apply for a one-year card to possess cannabidol oil, an extract available online and over the counter in other states. The law expires in 2017, requiring legislative authorization to continue. In the meantime, the University of Iowa medical school will issue a report in a year on the efficacy of cannabidol treatment.
There are no fees and little bureaucracy. Patients' names will remain confidential, except to police who can check if they encounter anyone carrying the tiny bottle.
In Iowa, the Department of Public Health will issue the cannabidol registration cards.
Illinois law creates a dispensary network organized by State Police district, not the health department. The Illinois law is packed with fees, beginning with $100 for a patient to get a registration card. Growers are charged a $25,000 non-refundable application fee. Dispensaries are charged a $5,000 non-refundable application fee. Growers must prove at least $500,000 in liquid assets. Dispensary applicants must have $400,000 on hand.