Legislative Update for 03/08/2019

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Legislative Update for 03/08/2019

Shanlyn Seivert

The first funnel date has arrived! The bills that survived the funnel have been voted out of a House or Senate Committee and are eligible for debate on the chamber floor. If a bill passes on the floor, it will then be sent over to the other chamber, where it will follow the same process through committee and debate on the floor. Sometimes it can be a challenge to follow bills as they work their way through the legislative process as bill numbers change at different stages. I have included the most current bill numbers, so you may want to look for bills by the title rather than the bill number.

Below are bills that passed out of the Senate Education Committee and are eligible for debate on the Senate floor.

SF 488  – Concurrent Enrollment to meet Certain Educational Requirements - Increases the weighting for liberal arts concurrent enrollment courses from .46 to .50. 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, and allows accredited nonpublic schools to enter into concurrent enrollment contracts with community colleges for the provision of academic or career and technical coursework for high school students and provides for a standing unlimited appropriation to fund the enrollment of accredited nonpublic school pupils under concurrent enrollment contracts between accredited nonpublic schools and community colleges.

SF 480 - Virtual School Snow Days Interim Study - Requests the Legislative Council to establish an interim study committee to study the feasibility of virtual school days held during inclement weather and allowing those virtual days to count as instructional days. The study committee will review and provide an analysis of school districts or accredited nonpublic schools in Iowa currently offering virtual instructional days, other states’ practices, equity concerns, potential barriers, opportunities to overcome such barriers without the need for new state funding, and best practices for utilizing virtual days as minimum school days. The committee will submit their findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by December 20, 2019.

SF 479 - Children’s Mental Health System - Establishes a children’s behavioral health system, identifies what qualifies a child or adolescent for services, and establishes required core behavioral health services. The bill codifies a children’s behavioral health system state board with specific state agency and community stakeholder representatives. The goal is for the children’s behavioral health system to work in tandem with the current structure for the Adult Mental Health Regions System.

 SF 445 – English as a Second Language (ESL) Supplemental Weighting – Increases the amount of supplementary weighting from .22 to .295 for five years for limited English proficient students. It would take effect on July 1, 2019.

SF 438  Omnibus bill - Addresses responsibilities and authority relating to school districts and the boards of directors of school districts. Also changes school districts’ responsibilities and requirements relating to dental, vision, and lead screening data collection and reporting. The details of this bill were outlined in the March 1 legislative update.

SF 437Scholarship Rule - Requires the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and the Iowa High School Athletic Association to develop an eligibility policy for high school students competing in high school sports/extracurricular activities that does not allow multiple suspensions for a single act. It also requires the Department to adopt new rules when the policy is ready. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee with an amendment that provided language to address the issue.

SF 394 - 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.

SF 376 – Health Education Requirements - Adds mental health awareness, coping skills, and suicide prevention to the subject matter that must be included in the unit of health education, which school districts and accredited nonpublic schools must offer and teach in grades 7-12. HF 504 the companion bill, passed a subcommittee, however, did not receive a vote in the House.

SF 372 - Education Savings Accounts (ESA) – Establishes educational savings grants for students with Individual Educational Programs (IEP) and 504 plans in private schools or those in public schools who are paying tuition due to not qualifying for open enrollment. The ESA is equal to the weighting generated by the student’s special education designation. Any unused grant money can be used for college by the student until age 23. The bill would take effect the 2020-21 school year. More to come on this bill.  

SF 316Special Education Interim Study – Requests the Legislative Council to establish an interim study committee to consider and make recommendations regarding special education services. The interim study requires input from various stakeholders, to include parents with children who have IEPs as well as parents whose children do not. The report is due in December 2020.  

SF 199– Voluntary Diversity Plan - Strikes the use of voluntary diversity plans as a reason to deny open enrollment to a student. HF 6 was the companion bill, but did not receive a vote in the House Education Committee.

SF 116 – Guns and School Transports - Allows individuals with a valid nonprofessional permit to carry a firearm on school grounds if they are on school grounds to transport a person to or from, or delivering an item to the school; and if they remain in a parking area or driveway. Passed in the Judiciary Committee.

SF 115 – Carrying on School Grounds – Allows peace officers to carry a gun on school grounds, even when not on duty. Passed in the Judiciary Committee.

SCR 8 Fine Arts Education Interim Study – Requests the Legislative Council to establish an interim study committee to review and provide recommendations on the funding, staffing and professional development, course offerings, including arts integration courses, parental, family, and community engagement measures, procurement of and access to instructional materials, and state priorities for fine arts education in broader school-improvement efforts. The bill establishes provisions for the membership of the study committee. The committee will submit their findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by December 20, 2019.    

Below are bills that passed out of the House Education Committee and are eligible for debate on the House floor.

HF 598Classroom Assignments for Siblings – Requires school administrators, prior to assigning siblings who are enrolled in kindergarten through grade five and deemed by the school district to be at the same grade level, to defer to parents in the placement of siblings in the same classroom.

HF 592Statewide Preschool Eligibility - Changes the statewide preschool program for four-year-old children to the statewide preschool program for young children and allows both four and five-year-olds to attend and be funded.

HF 563 - Student Liaison on Local Boards - Requires local boards to select at least one student to act as a liaison between the board, administrators, teachers, student council, and the general student population. The student liaison must have a seat at the table of all board meetings and board subcommittee meetings in a nonvoting capacity, and have access to all non-confidential board meeting materials. The student would not attend any closed sessions where confidential information will be shared.

HF 546/SF 74  Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) - Both bills extend the SAVE state penny sales tax for school infrastructure through January 1, 2051. There is a new section which states that an athletic facility infrastructure project, defined as a building or structure that is not physically attached to a student attendance center, will not be authorized until each attendance center within the school district is equipped with secured entrance and exit door systems. The bill also includes a Career Academy Fund, which allows a separate and distinct fund to be created where funds are allocated as competitive grants to establish career academies, with preference going to new academies where three or more school districts are working collaboratively, with a maximum grant award of $1 million. The second priority goes to existing academies. SF 74 passed out of the Senate Education Committee and was referred to Ways and Means. HF 546 passed out of the Ways and Means Committee and is eligible for debate on the floor.

HF 499Vans Transporting Students – Excludes 10-passenger vehicles from the definition of a school bus. The Department of Transportation would propose rules to allow 10-passenger autos to operate as school buses. SF 186, SF 197, HF 343 are similar bills.

HF 445Education Funding Weighting for Children Living in Facilities – If a child is living in an agency child care facility and if the juvenile court or responsible agency has determined that remaining in the child’s prior school is not in the best interest of the child, the child shall be assigned a weighting equal to the weighting established in Iowa Code section 256B.9(1)(b) as if the child required special education. The bill would take effect beginning on or after July 1, 2019.

HF 420/SF 139 - Financial Literacy Requirement under the State’s Educational Standards -  Requires high school students enrolled in school districts and accredited nonpublic schools to take a one-half unit course in personal finance literacy, as a condition of graduation. This will commence with the students in the 2022-2023 school year graduating class. SF 139 passed the Senate on a 48-0 vote.

HF 349Radon Testing – The bill as amended requires schools to test for radon by 2024 and if multiple tests confirm an unacceptable level of radon, requires schools to mitigate. Allows Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) and SAVE funds to be used for both testing and mitigation. School districts are required to retain a person credentialed to perform radon abatement. The bill passed the House Education Committee with an amendment. The current bill does not reflect the amendment and will be assigned a new number prior to being placed on the House Debate Calendar.

HF 119School Property Tax Levy – Deems that the statewide maximum adjusted property tax rate shall not be less than the lowest such rate among all Iowa school districts. Takes effect 2020-21. Introduced to Ways and Means.

Below are bills that have companion bills and are eligible for debate on both the House and Senate floors.

SF 138/HF 596Whole-Grade Sharing - Extends certain whole-grade sharing/school district reorganization incentives until July 2024. The bill provides for a reduced uniform levy as an incentive for school districts that reorganize on or before July 1, 2024.

SF 159/HF 513 - Practitioner Preparation Program Testing - Authorizes the Department to set the minimum passing score for completing a teacher preparation program in order to receive the initial license. Requires the Department to establish a one-year waiver process for students who fail to obtain the minimum assessment score.

SF 186/SF 197/HF 343 - School Bus Exception – These bills are similar in that they would increase the allowable size of vans used to transport students up to 12 passengers, including the driver. SF 197 would allow the use of pickups of nine passengers or less to also be used as school buses, if the pickup does not carry more passengers than there are safety belts and if the pickup is not operated while any passenger is in the bed of the pickup.  The bills require vans, if over nine passengers, to be 'used' vehicles due to federal regulations that prohibit the purchase and use of new vans of over 10-person capacity for student transportation.  However, those same regulations do not apply to used vans. HF 343 is a companion bill. All are eligible for debate on the floor.

SF 367/HF 478 – Regional and Educational Telecommunication Councils Elimination - Strikes Iowa Code section 8D.5, which establishes the education telecommunications council and regional telecommunications councils under the Iowa communications network (ICN). The appropriation was discontinued in FY 2017, resulting in the elimination of the councils.

A few bills that received attention, but did not survive the funnel were HF 160 and HSB 213, Charter Schools, and SF 129, SF 130, HF 78 and HF 185, School Start Date. Since we are in the first year of the 88th General Assembly, these bills, as well as any other bills that do not survive this legislative session, can be resurrected during the next legislative session.  

Now that the first funnel has come and gone, both chambers will be busy debating bills on the floor. The education-related bills that I have included in this update are not all inclusive. If you have a certain bill that you have been tracking or are curious about, feel free to contact me and I would be happy to assist.

The second funnel date is April 5, which means legislators have four weeks to have bills voted out of one chamber and out of committee in the other chamber. As a reminder, the first and second funnel dates do not apply to Appropriations and Ways and Means bills. Until next week…

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