Legislative Update for April/07/2018

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Legislative Update for 04/07/2018

Shanlyn Seivert

The clock is ticking and April 17, which is the last official day of session, is quickly approaching. There is still plenty of work to be completed between now and then. The legislative session can go beyond the last day; however, that is the last day that legislators receive a per diem.

There were a few bills signed by the Governor, and they are as follows:

SF 2131Iowa Learning Online (ILO), Expanded Access – ILO courses, which are developed or vetted by the Department of Education (Department) and taught by an Iowa licensed teacher, are currently available to only school districts and accredited nonpublic schools. This bill expands 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 also requires Area Education Agencies, in collaboration with the community colleges, and the Department of Education, to 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.

SF 2114 – Department of Education Code Corrections and Clarifications – This bill is designed to clean up sections of Iowa Code related to education matters and does not establish any new policies.

HF 2235State Assessment - This bill requires that the State Board of Education adopt administrative rules designating the “assessment developed by Iowa Testing Programs within the University of Iowa College of Education and administered by Iowa Testing Programs’ designee” as Iowa’s statewide/summative assessment for accountability. The bill requires that the assessment must be aligned to the Iowa Core academic standards, accurately describe student achievement and growth, be available in both paper-and-pencil computer-based formats, and meet the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The bill also requires that the designated assessment must be peer-reviewed by an independent, third-party evaluator to determine that it is aligned with the Iowa Core academic standards and meets the summative assessment requirements of ESSA. The assessment would be administered in the last quarter of the 2018-2019 school year.

SF 2113 - Suicide Prevention Training – Governor Reynolds signed this bill during a bill signing ceremony last week and stated, “It’s vital that steps are taken to identify the early signs of depression and mental health challenges in children. Through early identification and intervention, we can help prevent the loss of a child to suicide.” The bill states that the State Board of Education will adopt rules requiring school boards to require all K-12 school personnel, who have contact with students, participate in one hour of training annually to include prevention, identification of adverse childhood experiences, and crisis intervention. The training requirements are effective July 1, 2019.

HF 2390 American Sign Language as a World Language – This bill provides that American Sign Language may count as a World Language for the purposes of offer-and-teach. Whether to offer it as a World Language for that purpose is left to the local district. The bill also changes Iowa Code references from “foreign language” to “world language.” 

The following bills are in various stages of the legislative process:

SF 2364 – Security Plans – This bill requires all public and accredited nonpublic schools to develop a high-quality emergency operations plan for the district and individual school buildings. The plan needs to include responses to active shooter scenarios and natural disasters and be completed no later than June 30, 2019. All public and accredited nonpublic schools are also required to determine which school personnel participate in the drill and whether students or local law enforcement agencies are participants in those drills. The drills need to be conducted at least once per year. The bill passed both chambers and is on its way to the Governor.

SF 2360 - Dyslexia Task Force - This bill requires the Department to convene a dyslexia task force to make findings and recommendations for legislation or administrative rules changes. The bill outlines the members that will be required on the task force. The task force is required to consider, but is not limited to, student screening, interventions, teacher preparation and professional development, classroom accommodation, and assistive technology.  The report needs to be submitted to the General Assembly and Governor by November 15, 2019. The bill passed both chambers and is on its way to the Governor.

SF 475 – Education Omnibus - This bill has several sections and addresses various educational areas. They are as follows:

  • Online Education – Eliminates the cap on the number of students who can be enrolled in online education through open enrollment. The bill authorizes school districts to provide online courses developed by private providers.
  • Concurrent Enrollment – Creates an exception to the “supplement not supplant” requirements for one or more career and technical education (CTE) classes falling under a single technical educational area.  If the class is supplanting an “offer and teach” required class, it will be eligible for supplementary weighting, generating funds for schools within the school aid formula, if the class has more than five students enrolled and if the school district has fewer than 600 students enrolled.
  • Student Health Working Group - The Department, in conjunction with the Department of Public Health, will create a student health work group to review state-initiated student health requirements. The committee will find ways to reduce the administrative burden imposed on schools and provide for a single method of enforcement of current health requirements and data collections. The bill also outlines the makeup of the work group.
  • Open Enrollment/Extracurricular Activity Fee - Allows a district of residence to deduct up to $200 per activity, up to two activities, for a student who is open enrolled and taking online courses. Students may participate in additional activities at the discretion of the resident district. For a co-curricular activity, a school district of residence may charge a student a fee for participation that is equivalent to the fee paid by resident students.
  • Biliteracy Seal - Directs the Department to develop and administer a seal or authorized endorsement of biliteracy to recognize graduating students who are proficient in two or more world languages.
  • Guidance - The bill also states that the Department’s guidance documents and statements may not be inconsistent with Iowa Code and administrative rules.

The House added three amendments to the bill. The first amendment requires the receiving school district to notify the resident school district, within 30 days, if a student who is open enrolled and participating in their online program terminates their enrollment. The second amendment prohibits a school district and private online provider from offering an incentive to parents, guardians, and students to participate in their online program. The third amendment requires a student to complete one-half unit of financial literacy as a high school graduation requirement and outlines the areas to be included in the financial literacy curriculum. The third amendment would take effect July 1, 2019. The House passed the bill as amended 56-39 and returned to the Senate for debate. 

During the Senate floor debate, Senator Sinclair stated that she intends to propose an amendment to the financial literacy requirement which would allow flexibility for school districts to meet the requirement. She also plans to amend language in the Online Education portion of the bill. This can be done by including language in either the Standings bill, which is an appropriations bill that makes adjustments to standing appropriations, and can include corrective provisions and policy language at the discretion of the General Assembly or the Education Appropriations bill. During the debate, Senator Sinclair outlined her amendment to the financial literacy component. It should be noted that conversations are ongoing regarding the amendment, so please stay tuned for updates. Regarding the Online Education portion of the bill, the amendment would include language for school districts who are developing their online curriculum, to develop the curriculum locally with local teachers or use ILO curriculum or Department approved curriculum.

As you can see, this bill includes several policy changes and has an extensive amendment history, which makes the floor debates in both chambers informative and provides context for the amendments that were adopted. To watch the most recent debate on this bill in the House click here and to watch the most recent debate in the Senate click here.  As I stated earlier, there are ongoing conversations regarding the Senate debate. The bill passed in the Senate 28-19 (as amended by the House) and is now on its way to the Governor. 

HF 2441– School District Program Funding Flexibility – The bill includes changes to early intervention, at-risk, and dropout prevention programming categorical funds. The bill states that early intervention funds can be used for general fund purposes. ​At-risk and dropout prevention ​program plans must be approved by local school boards, and ​requests for modified supplemental amount (MSA) will be submitted to and reviewed by the School Budget Review Committee (SBRC) rather than the Department. Administrative staff, psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors, school security personnel costs, and any purpose that directly benefits students in the adopted program are added to the list of specified allowable uses of at-risk and dropout prevention funds. Additionally, the bill removes the five-year limitation on the length of time allowed for a lease of school district property ​and allows moneys deposited in the child ca​re fund that exceed the amount necessary to operate the program to be transferred, by board resolution, to the general fund. The bill passed the House and passed in the Senate with an amendment. The amendment will better align the at-risk and dropout prevention program plans timelines with the SBRC meeting schedule. The bill was sent back to the House, where it passed and is on its way to the Governor.

SF 2318 High School Credits - This bill requires school districts and accredited nonpublic schools to grant high school credit toward graduation to a student of any age who has satisfactorily completed a high school-level unit of instruction. The bill passed the Senate and passed the House with an amendment. The amendment states that the school district or accredited nonpublic school of enrollment will grant a high school credit for the course unless the student is unable to demonstrate proficiency or the school district or accredited nonpublic school determines that the course completed by the student does not meet their standards. If a student is denied credit, the school district or accredited nonpublic school denying the credit, will provide the student’s parent or guardian in writing the reason for the denial. The bill has passed both chambers and is on its way to the Governor.

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 must complete the training by July 1, 2019 and then every two years thereafter. School districts and nonpublic schools need to provide to parents/guardians a concussion and brain injury information sheet; the student and parent need to sign and return prior to participation. The bill also requires that a student is to be immediately removed from a contest if the student shows any sign of brain injury and requires the DPH, 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.

The bill passed the House on a 96-1 vote and passed the Senate 49-0 with an amendment, so it has been sent back to the House. The details of this bill have been tweaked many times throughout the legislative process. Once the bill has passed both chambers in identical form, I will provide the final details of the bill. If the House accepts the Senate's amendment, it will be on its way to the Governor.

HF 2467 – School Meals – The bill 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 encourages 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 was sent to the Senate. The Senate passed the bill 48-0 with several amendments. The Senate amendments included the removal of the dollar limit and time threshold to utilize the income setoff, changed the language to include school personnel who can contact a student’s parent or guardian when a student owes money for five or more meals, and provide information regarding application for free or reduced-fee meals. The amendments also struck the language which stated that schools should position the point of service at the beginning of a lunch line as well as language directing the Department to develop and establish best practices, guidance, and policies. It now goes back to the House.

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 was sent to the Senate and it was suggested during the Senate subcommittee to amend HF 2280 by combining two bills that were put forth by the Senate. 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 other bill 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 was brought up for debate this week on the Senate floor and was deferred. The future of the bill is unclear at this time.

We are waiting to see fiscal year 2019 budget numbers. As I mentioned in one of my earlier legislative updates, typically there is a Joint Appropriations Subcommittee who will work on the education budget bill and report back to their respective Appropriations Committee. The budget bills need to pass the Appropriations Committee and the floor of both chambers in identical form prior to being sent to the Governor. We will see if the ending of the per diem and the desire to get on the campaign trail will be enough of a motivator to get it all done in the next 10 days.  

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