Legislative Update for 04/20/2019

Iowa Department of Education Banner with Mission Statement

Legislative Update for 04/20/2019

Shanlyn Seivert

This week several education bills moved forward in the legislative process. One bill was signed by the Governor, three are on the way for her signature and others are on the move, trying to pass both chambers prior to the end of session. The other focus this week was appropriations bills, which most have passed out of one chamber.   

The bill signed by the Governor was SF 159 - Practitioner Preparation Program Testing, which authorizes the Department of Education (Department) to set the minimum passing score for completing a teacher preparation program in order to receive the initial license. When establishing a minimum score, the Department will use scores required of similar tests in contiguous states as well as the supply and demand imbalance of content areas or teaching positions currently experienced in Iowa. It also requires the Department to establish a one-year waiver process for students who fail to obtain the minimum assessment score. 

Bills on the way to the Governor

HF 598 – Classroom Assignments for Siblings – Allows parents to request that siblings, who are deemed to be at the same grade level, be placed in the same classroom for kindergarten through grade 5 at the start of the registration period, or within 14 days of the start of attendance for later-enrolled students. It requires the school to defer to the parent, unless the principal determines that the placement is disruptive. It allows a parent to appeal to their local school board if they disagree with the principal’s decision. The bill passed the House on a vote of 91-5 and passed the Senate on a vote of 44-5.

HF 637 School Misconduct Reports - Requires that information reportable to the Board of Educational Examiners (BoEE) on the misconduct of school employees be reported within 30 days. The bill passed the House on a vote of 98-0 and passed the Senate on a vote of 50-0.

HF 690 - 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. The bill passed the House on a vote of 83-14 and passed the Senate on a vote of 46-2. 

Bills that are on the move

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. The bill passed the Senate and was sent to the House. The bill passed in the House with an amendment that strikes misplaced good faith effort language. The bill now goes back to the Senate to debate the amendment.

SF 602/HF 596 - Whole Grade Sharing - Extends certain whole-grade sharing/school district reorganization incentives such as a reduced uniform levy until July 2024. SF 602 passed Senate Appropriations and is eligible for debate on the Senate floor. HF 596 passed the House with a vote of 97-0 and has been sent to the Senate. Both bills are eligible for debate on the Senate floor.

SF 603 - Concurrent Enrollment to meet Certain Educational Requirements

  • Increases the weighting for liberal arts concurrent enrollment courses from .46 to .50.
  • Authorizes school districts with enrollments of 600 or fewer pupils and accredited nonpublic schools with enrollments in grades 9 through 12 of 200 or fewer 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.
  • 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.  
  • 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.
  • The bill defines “full-time” and “part-time” student as a full-time student enrolled in 24 or more postsecondary credit hours.

The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 49-0 and has been sent to House, where it is scheduled for a subcommittee in Appropriations on Monday.

HF 546 - SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education)

  • Extends the SAVE state penny sales tax for school infrastructure through January 1, 2051.
  • Increases the property tax relief. (Amended by Senate to increase property tax relief from 15 to 30 percent)
  • Establishes a base transfer supplement equal to the equity transfer for use by the Department for foundation base supplements.
  • Terminates revenue purpose statements as of 2031 and requires schools which do not intend to use a revenue purpose statement after 2023 to have one approved by the voters by July 2018.
  • Requires public hearing for revenue bond sales and allows voters to petition for a vote on revenue bond sales.
  • Creates 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. HF 546 passed the House on a 96-3 vote and was sent to the Senate where it passed the Ways and Means Committee on a 13-1 vote with the amendment. As stated above, the amendment increases property tax relief from 15 to 30 percent. The bill is eligible for debate on the Senate floor, if it passes the Senate, it will be sent to the House for debate on the floor.

Bills that have been placed on the unfinished business calendar, which means they are still under consideration for this legislative session

SF 139/HF 420 - 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, commencing with students in the 2022-2023 school year graduating class. SF 139 passed the Senate and was sent to the House. HF 420, which is identical to SF 139, is eligible for debate on the House floor. There has been no action on this bill for several weeks and with the legislative session winding down, you may want to contact your House Representative to discuss the status of the bill. To find your Representative, click here.  

 SF 197 - School Bus Exception – The bills are similar in that they would increase the allowable size of vans used to transport students 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. SF 197 passed the Senate 49-0 and was sent to the House.

Last week the House passed HF 758, Education Appropriations, on a vote of 58-38. Some of the highlights of the bill were increases of $356,000 for Career and Technical Secondary Education, $500,000 for ILO, $300,000 for the Statewide Assessment, designated for accredited nonpublic schools who plan to use the new state assessment through Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) and $3 million for Children's Mental Health Training. The Senate’s amendment S-3185, which strikes and replaces the House’s version, did not include the increases outlined in the House’s version, with the exception of the $300,000 for the Statewide Assessment. The Senate’s amendment included a new appropriation for the Best Buddies program of $25,000 as well as $500,000 to the Adult Literacy and Workforce programs and an increase to nonpublic schools of $200,000 for textbook services. Both chambers will have to agree upon a budget before it can be sent to the Governor for signature. 

The official end date of the legislative session, and the final date in which legislators can receive a per diem is May 3. There is talk at the Capitol that legislators would like to conclude the legislative session next week. If that is the case, legislators may have to put in some long days to tie up loose ends on policy bills and agree upon state agency budgets to finalize appropriations bills. Until next week… 

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