Legislative Update for March 9, 2018

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Legislative Update for 03/09/2018

Shanlyn Seivert

There were a few education-related subcommittees and committees this week. The focus was on wrapping up floor debates before the second funnel arrives on Friday, March 16. Next week will be busy, as bills have to be voted out of one chamber and out of committee in the opposite chamber to remain alive. This deadline does not apply to Appropriations bills and Ways and Means bills.

One of the bills that the Department of Education (Department) sponsored is on its way to the Governor for signature. SF 2131 – Iowa Learning Online (ILO), Expanded Access – ILO courses, which are developed or vetted by the Department and taught by an Iowa licensed teacher, are currently available to only school districts and accredited nonpublic schools. This bill seeks to expand access to ILO to students receiving independent private instruction, competent private instruction, or attending non-accredited private schools. The parent or guardian of the student would be responsible for paying the cost of the ILO course. The bill was amended to mandate the Area Education Agencies, in collaboration with the community colleges and the Department of Education, convene a working group to identify effective means by which students may access educational instruction and content online and identify partnerships between existing providers of rigorous and high quality online coursework.

HF 2280 – Teacher Program Completion Test – This bill strikes the program completion test requirement. The strike is retroactive to 2012, which is the date when the requirement was put in place. The bill passed the House on a 55-42 vote, which was mostly party-line. The bill has now been sent to the Senate, and there is a subcommittee scheduled.

The Senate has two bills that also address the teacher program completion test. One of the bills is SF 2363, which requires the Department to set the required passing score using a validated score setting process determined by the test company. This is a change from the current requirement to adjust the cut score every year based on the 25th percentile of national scores. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee and is eligible for debate on the Senate floor. The other is SF 2171, which creates a one year license for a person who failed the test, but completed everything else for program completion and has a valid job offer from a school administrator.​ It also allows a one-year license for applicants who successfully complete a practitioner preparation program outside of Iowa and have met all other application requirements with the exception of the assessment score requirement. The bill passed the Senate on a 46-3 vote, and was sent to the House.

HF 2235 - State Assessment - This bill states that the new assessment shall be developed by the Iowa Testing Program located within the University of Iowa College of Education and be administered by the Iowa Testing Program’s designee. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee and is eligible for debate on the Senate floor. There was an article written by the Des Moines Register regarding the debate during the Senate Education Committee. Click here for the article.

SF 2364 – Security Plans – This bill requires all public and accredited nonpublic school to develop a high-quality emergency operations plan for the district and individual school buildings no later than June 30, 2019. The legislation also requires that all school personnel conduct at least one annual emergency operations drill. This bill passed unanimously in the Senate and has been sent to the House. 

HF 2442 – High School Collision Sports – This bill requires:

  • The Department of Public Health (DPH), Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA), and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) to work together to develop training materials and courses on concussions and brain injury.
  • Coaches and contest officials to complete the training by July 1, 2019 and then every two years thereafter. 
  • School districts and non-public schools need to provide to parents/guardians a concussion and brain injury information sheet; the student and parent to sign and return prior to participation. 
  • A student is to be immediately removed from a contest if the student shows any sign of brain injury.  
  • The DPH, Department, IHSAA and IGHSAU to develop return to play/return to learn protocols.

The bill also adds liability protections for schools that have a licensed health care provider at contests and protection for the health care provider. If this bill is of interest to you, I would recommend reviewing, as there are additional details included in the bill. The bill passed the House on a 96-1 vote and has been sent to the Senate.

HF 2467 – School Meals - Allows schools to use money from the flexibility accounts to pay for the costs of student meal debt. The bill requires schools to notify parents at least twice a year, and if the student has five unpaid lunches, of the availability of free or reduced school lunch programs. It also requires schools to offer students reimbursable lunches unless the parent authorizes withholding lunches from a student. The bill prohibits posting lists of students who cannot pay for lunch, shaming such students, and denying the students participation in various school activities. The bill passed the House on a 97-0 vote and has been sent to the Senate. 

On Thursday, Governor Reynolds signed into law SF 455, which adds five dollars to the state cost per pupil, after accounting for regular program supplemental state aid, for the budget year beginning July 1, 2018. Additionally, it establishes a transportation equity fund to provide assistance to districts whose per pupil transportation costs exceed the statewide adjusted average cost per pupil. A one-year appropriation of $14 million is provided for this fund.

The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) occurred today and predicted an increase of $33 million will flow into the State Treasury for fiscal year 2018. For further details, the Legislative Services Agency has provided a detailed summation of the March 9, REC. Click here for the report on Revenues and here for the Balance Sheet. The full Senate and House Appropriations Committee have passed different versions of SF 2117, which is the de-appropriations bill and cuts spending in the current year. Having an amount established by the REC, should assist legislators in determining adjustments and working toward a budget bill that both chambers can agree upon.

As I mentioned earlier, the second funnel is quickly approaching and there is a great deal of work that needs to be done by the end of next week for bills to survive. There are several education-related bills that will need to make it through different stages of the legislative process. Due to the sheer volume of bills, there are many that will not make it through. My next legislative update will have a more concise list of the bills that remain active and have the potential to become law.   

Shan Seivert
Policy Liaison
Iowa Department of Education
Cell: 515-326-5595
Office: 515-281-3399