Legislative Update for April/21/2018

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Legislative Update for 04/21/2018

Shanlyn SeivertThe official last day of session has come and gone as work at the Capitol continues. Leadership in both chambers, as well as the Governor’s office, are working toward consensus on a tax bill. Once that is accomplished, budget work can be completed. Committee meetings were held in the House on budget bills for some state agencies, making those budgets eligible for debate on the House floor. Unfortunately, the budget bills brought forth this week did not include the Department of Education (Department).

Bills signed by 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 rule changes. The bill outlines the membership for the task force which is the director of the Department or a designee, one representative of the Iowa Reading Research Center, one Area Education Agency representative, one school administrator, one reading specialist, one special education teacher, three representatives of decoding dyslexia, one provider certified in a structured literacy reading program, one psychologist or speech language pathologist, and one representative of an institution of higher education in Iowa with documented expertise in dyslexia and reading instruction. 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 in the House on a vote of 97-0 and in the Senate on a 48-0 vote.

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. It also 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. In addition, it prohibits a school district and private online provider from offering an incentive to parents, guardians, and students to participate in their online program.
  • 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 of Public Health, in conjunction with the Department, 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 and requires that they submit their findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by December 31, 2018.
  • 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 cocurricular 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 bill also 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 and takes effect July 1, 2019. During the Senate floor debate, there were discussions regarding the financial literacy requirement and the Online Education portion of the bill. We are anticipating that there will be changes to both, which will be outlined in either the Standings bill or the Education Appropriations bill. The bill passed in the House on a 56-39 vote and in the Senate on a 28-19 vote.

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 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 passed in the House on a 99-0 vote and in the Senate with a 47-0 vote.

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 regarding application for free or reduced-price meals, and if the student has five unpaid lunches, the school can contact a student’s parent or guardian to provide information regarding application for free or reduced-price meals. It does not limit any other options for school meal debt collection available to the school district by law. It encourages schools to offer students reimbursable lunches unless the parent authorizes withholding lunches from a student. Any alternate lunch provided to students in debt must consist of items that are available to all students. The bill prohibits posting lists of students who cannot pay for lunch, shaming such students, and denying the students' participation in various school activities. Schools are able to utilize the income setoff without limit on the dollar amount of the debt nor the length of time the debt has been owed. A school may develop a fund for donations for unpaid student meals and any money deposited in the account can only be used for that purpose. The school shall set fair and equitable procedures for the account expenditures. The bill passed in the House on a 96-0 vote and in the Senate with a 48-0 vote.

A bill that moved forward in the legislative process is HF 2482 - Searchable School Database. The bill requires the Iowa Department of Management (DOM) to create and maintain a searchable budget database detailing where, and for what purpose, school district tax dollars and other funds are expended. The DOM is charged with having the database available beginning January 1, 2020, and requires it to be updated quarterly beginning on July 1, 2020. It also requires the DOM to conduct a study on the development, implementation, compliance, and use of the site, and to submit a report outlining their findings to the General Assembly by January 1, 2025. The bill is eligible for debate in the House.

While over at the Capitol this week, I heard the question frequently asked, “When do you think they’ll be done?" Although the question was obviously rhetorical, with the majority of policy work completed and budget work underway, I'm optimistic that sine die (final adjournment) is right around the corner. 

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