Legislative Update for 03/15/2019

Iowa Department of Education Banner with Mission Statement

Legislative Update for 03/15/2019

Shanlyn Seivert

With the first funnel in the rear-view mirror, both chambers spent much of the week debating and passing bills, allowing those bills to be sent over to the other chamber as they work their way through the legislative process. 

One such bill is the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) Extension bill. The House passed HF 546 on a 96-3 vote and it has been sent to the Senate. The bill addresses a variety of areas which include:

  • Extending the SAVE state penny sales tax for school infrastructure through January 1, 2051.
  • Increasing the property tax relief to 15 percent.
  • Establishing a base transfer supplement equal to the equity transfer for use by the Department for foundation base supplements.
  • Creating 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.

The bill also 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. It also requires districts to have a public hearing prior to the use of SAVE funds for athletic facilities, which allows voters the opportunity to petition for a vote if SAVE funds are used for athletic facilities. In addition, it allows the use of SAVE funds for school security and safety equipment.

Regarding small schools, which are defined as having a certified enrollment of less than 250 students or fewer than 100 in high school, the Department is required to use a cost benefit analysis when determining whether to issue a certificate of need for building by a small school. The Senate has a companion bill, SF 74, which is currently eligible for a vote in the Ways and Means Committee.

SF 209 - Civics Test - Requires school districts and accredited nonpublic schools to offer high school students an opportunity to take the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Civics Test. The bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 43-3 and is scheduled for a subcommittee in the House.

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. The bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 49-0 and has been sent to the House.

SF 316 – Special Education Interim Study – Requests the Legislative Council to establish an interim study committee to consider and make recommendations regarding special education services. The bill specifies stakeholders from whom the study is required to receive input and requires the committee to submit a report with its findings and recommendations to the legislature, and each member of Iowa’s congressional delegation, on or before December 18, 2020. The bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 49-0 and is scheduled for a subcommittee in the House.

SF 140 - Private School Student Mileage - Increases the miles a teen driver on a special school license can drive for an activity from 25 to 50 miles. The bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 46-3 and has been sent to the House.

SF 197 - School Bus Exceptions - Allows 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 bill limits the use of such vehicles to transporting students to events or transporting a student home due to illness in an emergency. The bill passed in the Senate on a vote of 49-0 and has been sent to the House.

SF 479/HF 690 - Children’s Mental Health System - Establishes a children’s behavioral health system, which identifies what qualifies a child or adolescent for services, and establishes required core behavioral health services. The bills codify 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. Both bills are eligible for debate on the floor.

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. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee and has been referred to Appropriations.

HF 592 – Statewide 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. The bill passed the House Education Committee and has been referred to Appropriations.

HF 673Radon Testing - 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 testing and mitigation. The bill passed the House Education Committee and has been referred to Appropriations.

HF 720 - Education 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. The bill passed the House Education Committee and has been referred to Appropriations.

SF 367 - Regional and Educational Telecommunication Councils Elimination -Strikes Iowa Code section 8D.5, which establishes the education telecommunications council and regional telecommunications council under the Iowa Communications Network (ICN). The appropriation was discontinued in FY 2017, resulting in the elimination of the councils. The bill passed both chambers and is on its way to the Governor.  

With three weeks to go before the second funnel, floor debates will continue and committee work will increase in an attempt to get bills through the legislative process prior to the second funnel date of April 5. Until next week…  


Shan Seivert
Policy Liaison
Iowa Department of Education
Cell: 515-326-5595
Office: 515-281-3399
shanlyn.seivert@iowa.gov