Legislative Update for 02/22/2019

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Legislative Update for 02/22/2019

Shanlyn Seivert

The realization that the first funnel (the date by which bills need to be voted out of a House or Senate Committee to stay alive) is only two weeks away is evident at the Capitol. There were several subcommittees held, and a flurry of new bills introduced.

The first education-related bills to be signed this session are the funding bills, HF 306, State School Aid and HF 307, Transportation/Per Pupil Equity. HF 306 establishes a 2.06 percent growth rate in school aid, which is an increase of approximately $78 million. HF 307 adds an additional $5 to the state cost per pupil. The additional $5 decreases the difference between the highest and lowest district cost per pupil amounts to $165. The bill continues the transportation equity aid, and the proposed amount for FY20 is $19 million.

Below are bills that moved forward in the legislative process.  

HF 349 - Radon Testing and Mitigation - The bill requires:

  • school districts to conduct short-term tests for radon at least once by July 1, 2022, and every five years thereafter.
  • subsequent action if the test results meet or exceed four picocuries per liter.
  • reporting about testing to the Department of Education (Department) through Basic Educational Data Survey (BEDS) collection, and requires schools to post results on their web site.
  • the Department and the Department of Public Health to approve standards for design and construction of school buildings to minimize radon as well as adopt administrative rules.
  • districts to retain a person credentialed to perform radon abatement.

The bill expands the use of Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) and (Secure an Advanced Vision) SAVE funds to pay for both radon testing and mitigation costs. During the subcommittee a great deal of discussion occurred. The bill passed in subcommittee with a proposed amendment offered, which modifies different sections of the bill. More to come on this bill. 

SF 284 - Shared Operational Functions and Supplementary Weighting - Adds a school resource officer to the list of eligible operational functions and positions eligible for a supplementary weighting of five pupils. The bill applies to school budget years beginning on or after July 1, 2019, through the school budget year beginning July 1, 2024. The bill passed in subcommittee making it eligible for a vote in the Senate Education Committee.

HF 160 - Charter SchoolsEliminates a school district’s authority to deny an application to convert an existing school district attendance center to a charter school. Instead, it requires that the school board review and submit to the state board of education an application that meets current Iowa code requirements, and allows the applicant to appeal to the state board a school board’s failure to submit the application to the state board. The bill passed subcommittee, with additional conversation to occur.

SF 316 – Establishment of a Special Education Interim Study Committee - Requires an interim study be completed on special education services for students with individualized education plans (IEPs). The committee will review state and federal laws and seek input from various stakeholders. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee with an amendment to add to the stakeholder list, parents with children who have IEPs as well as parents whose children do not. The amendment also extended the due date of the report to December 2020.

HF 268 - Searchable School Database - Requires the Department of Management (DOM) to develop and make available on the internet a searchable database of school spending information by 2021. It requires schools to report their district certified budget, all state audits or reports of the school district, school districts’ quarterly financial statements and other information that may be specified by the DOM Director. A subcommittee was held and there was discussion that the intent of the bill may be met through coordination of current reporting practices.

SF 139 - Financial Literacy Requirement under the State’s Educational Standards – Extends the financial literacy graduation requirement date to the graduating class of 2022–2023. The bill passed in the Senate. HF 420, the House companion bill, is eligible for debate on the floor.

SF 159/HSB 17 - Teacher Preparation Testing – Both bills allow the Department to set the required passing score, based on test scores in other states and teacher supply and demand data. SF 159 also allows the Department to set the required passing score based on consideration of the recommended score determined by the test provider. The bills allow a one-year license for a person who has not yet passed the test(s), has completed all other program requirements, and has a documented job offer. This provision will also be extended to out-of-state applicants. Finally, the bills state that once a person reaches the required score, the person is considered to have passed, even if the required score goes up before completing other program requirements. The bills have passed in their education committees making them eligible for debate on the floor.

HF 499 - Vans Transporting Students – Excludes 10-passenger vehicles from the definition of a school bus. The Department of Transportation (DOT) would propose rules to allow 10-passenger autos to operate as school buses. The bill is eligible for debate on the House floor.

SSB 1163Concurrent Enrollment to Meet Certain Education Requirements - The bill: 

  • increases the weighting for liberal arts concurrent enrollment (community college) courses from 46 hundredths to 50 hundredths.
  • authorizes school districts and accredited nonpublic schools with enrollments of 600 or fewer pupils to utilize concurrent enrollment programs to meet the requirements for science and mathematics units under the educational standards.
  • allows school districts with enrollments over 600 pupils to enter into an agreement with a community college to meet the requirements for science and mathematics units under the educational standards.
  • establishes a process through which nonpublic schools contract directly with community colleges and a funding mechanism with community colleges to offset costs.

There was a subcommittee held and while the bill includes a provision to allow districts to assess parents the fee for participation in such courses if the student did not finish the course, there were concerns shared during the subcommittee, which resulted in Senators agreeing that the provision should be removed. More to come on this bill.

SSB 1165 - Offer and Teach Requirements through Distance Learning Courses - Allows school districts and accredited nonpublic schools to offer distance learning courses to meet the state’s educational program “offer and teach” course requirements at the high school level by utilizing Iowa Learning Online (ILO) through the Department, or by offering a course through an online platform, if the course is developed by the school district or by offering such a course through a private provider that meets standards approved by the Department. The bill passed in subcommittee making it eligible for a vote in the Senate Education Committee.

To stay up-to-date on the many recent bills and the bills that will be introduced in the next two weeks, please feel free to visit the bill tracker on the Department's web-page. We updated the bill tracking system to make it more user friendly. Until next week...

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