Iowa Legislature Education Bills to Watch (1st Edition)

Iowa-State-Capitol-December-2014Over the weekend I looked at bills that had been filed in the Iowa Legislature.  Here are a few bills that I’m keeping an eye on.  Just a caveat – these are not the only education bills filed and these only represent bills filed last week.

HF 13 – this bill would eliminate the early school date prohibition.  It enjoys bipartisan support.  I wrote about this today at Caffeinated Thoughts.  This is a welcome bill and one that I believe we should support.

HSB 19 – This bill would set up an interim legislative committee to on the collection and use of state sales, services, and use taxes tax revenue from the secure an advanced vision for education fund for the 2015 legislative interim.  I asked State Representative Ron Jorgensen (R-Sioux City) who is the House Education Chair, about the bill because I was unaware of the context.  He told me, “Last year and again this year a number of people are asking that we extend the sunset year related to the 1% local option tax for schools. I am not comfortable extending any tax until we have reviewed the program which it relates to. This bill asks that this review be done before we give any consideration to extending a tax program.”

HSB 38 – This deals with preschool costs and what community providers who contract for pass-through money going through local school districts can do with it.  Some school districts (I am uncertain of the number) started their own preschools others contracted with community-based private providers.  This provides more flexibility for private providers which, as long as this program exists, is a good thing.  I’d rather see the whole program gone since we can’t afford it and it hurt privately-run preschools in some districts, but in the interim this is a good bill.

HSB 39 – This is the anti-bullying bill proposed by Governor Terry Branstad.  “The Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015” is similar to last year’s version.  One version I like the notification feature that requires schools to notify parents/students if they are directly involved in a bullying/harassment incident.  Parents are the ones who can ultimately nip this problem in the bud, especially the parents of kids who are bullies.

The bill like last year does not force schools to police this behavior off school grounds.  The bill states schools may rather than shall “investigate and impose school discipline or take other action in the case of an alleged incident of harassment or bullying that occurs outside of school, off of school property, or away from a school function or school-sponsored activity” if certain conditions are met.  It also states in order for the school to investigate or intervene the “alleged incident of harassment or bullying has an effect on school grounds that creates an objectively hostile school environment.”  In other words there is a clear standard this behavior is impacting the school day.  An argument can be made that a school has a vested interest there, but do we need a new state law for schools to deal with behavior that does manifest on school grounds?

There is an exception for notification.  The bill states “if a school official or a student who is the target  of harassment or bullying reasonably believes notification would subject the targeted student to rejection, abuse, or neglect related to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”  Two problems: First no other classification of students are considered, and second they don’t define what “reasonably believes.”  I’m sorry that is way, way too subjective.  Unless there is documented, founded abuse or neglect on the part of the parents/guardians they must notify – period.

The bill also sets up training and a pilot program.  It also includes language related to academic eligibility for students who leave a school district due to a founded incident of bullying.  The price tag is $200,000 – $150,000 for training and $50,000 for the pilot program.

Karen at Education in Iowa raises asks some good questions.  “(D)oes school employee reporting open the door for schools to employ people for the purpose of, or assign employees to the duty of, surveillance of student social media use? Should it be limited to school employees who have had incidents reported to them by students, parents, or guardians?”

Needless to say there are a lot of potential problems with this bill.

SF 5 – This waives assessment requirements for prospective teachers applying for a state teaching license who may otherwise meet the necessary requirements.  I’m not entirely sure what the assessment requirements are.  A friend told me it was 25% which is ridiculously low if that is the case.  If anyone has additional information to share that would be great.

SF 16 – This is State Senator Brad Zaun’s attempt to roll back the Iowa Code to what it was pre-Iowa Core I believe.  I’ve contacted him for some clarification, but I haven’t heard back.  Read through it and let me know what you think.  I’d like some clarification on what the “assessment standards” are.  I think those existed before Iowa Core, but I’m not certain.  I appreciate Zaun, this bill won’t move out of subcommittee where Republican-sponsored bills typically go to die in the Democrat-led Senate.

I know there will be some Common Core-related bill that are filed in the Iowa House, but that hasn’t happened since I last checked.  Also, I think, on the Common Core front anyway, think our best chance for success this session is to stop Smarter Balanced Assessments from being implemented.  So far there is not a bill filed for that.  We need to watch for it, and I wouldn’t put it past those who favor the assessment to try to get that language amended into another bill.  So let’s keep our eyes open.

About Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart founded Iowans for Local Control in 2012 which later merged with Iowa RestorEd. Shane also is the founder and editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Thoughts and the founder and president of 4:15 Communications, LLC, a social media & communications consulting/management firm.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Google +.

Leave a Reply