Legislative Update for 02/28/2020

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Legislative Update for 02/28/2020

Shanlyn SeivertLegislators spent this week caucusing and debating bills on the floor. The second funnel, which is the deadline for bills to be voted out of one chamber and out of committee in the other chamber to survive, is scheduled for Friday, March 20. There were a few committee meetings held this week in an attempt to maintain the flow of bills ready for debate on the floor.

Governor Reynolds signed one of the priority education funding bills, which is SF 2164 - Transportation/Per Pupil Equity. Below is an excerpt from her press release:

“The bill increases aid for transportation equity by $7.253 million to $26.253 million. The transportation equity funding is for schools with higher-than-average transportation costs. The changes in the state cost per pupil will increase state aid by about $5.28 million while decreasing levies by $3.64 million. The change decreases the maximum difference between the state cost per-pupil and the maximum district cost to $155.”

The two chambers continue to work to establish an agreed upon state school aid amount. The House set the growth rate for school aid at 2.5 percent, and the Senate set the amount at 2.1 percent. The two chambers will need to reconcile an amount prior to the bill being sent to the Governor.

On a different topic, it can sometimes 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 title rather than bill number.

Speaking of bills working through the legislative process, there were several education bills that passed one chamber and were sent to the other chamber for consideration.

Bills that passed on the Senate floor and were sent to the House:

SF 2360 - Classroom Management/Classroom Clears - Provides a comprehensive approach to create a safe learning space for students and teachers by incorporating the following:  

  • Directs the Department of Education (Department) to develop, establish, and distribute to school districts standards, guidelines, and expectations relating to behavior in the classroom, restraint of a student, and professional development relating to educating individuals in the least restrictive environment, and for researched-based intervention strategies.
  • Outlines teacher training and professional development on how to deal with violent student behavior and understanding least restrictive environment when developing Individualized Education Programs (IEP). 
  • Promotes teachers/administrators to have a universal understanding of federal law as it relates to students with disabilities. 
  • Creates therapeutic classrooms and access to alternative placements for students who are not thriving in a regular classroom. 
  • Creates a therapeutic classroom incentive grant program. 
  • Requires teacher preparation programs to include the development of IEPs and other strategies on behavioral interventions.
  • Authorizes and defines how school districts and accredited nonpublic schools get reimbursed for transportation claims and the weighted funding related to the therapeutic classrooms. 
  • Addresses the failure of an administrator to protect the safety of staff and students by failing to report violent behavior, and the refusal of a practitioner to implement the provisions of an IEP.
  • Outlines that IEPs for children requiring special education within the regular school environment and behavioral intervention plans will not include a room clear as an option to calm the student with an IEP/behavioral intervention plan.
  • Allows a teacher to clear a classroom if necessary to prevent or stop an imminent threat of bodily injury to a student or another person in the classroom. 
  • Requires school personnel to contact parents if their child was part of a room clear, and prohibits identification of students either directly or indirectly involved in the event.
  • Requires the principal to request that the parent or guardian of the student whose behavior caused the classroom clear to meet with the principal, classroom teacher, and other pertinent staff. 
  • Allows a classroom teacher to call for, and be included in, the reevaluation of the student’s IEP if their behavior caused a classroom clear. 
  • Allows the Area Education Agencies (AEA), in collaboration with school districts, to inform parents or guardians of individual and family counseling services when they meet with the IEP team to reevaluate their child’s IEP.  
  • Defines corporal punishment as an intentional physical punishment of a student. The bill specifies that an employee’s physical contact with the body of a student shall not be considered corporal punishment, if it is reasonable and necessary under the circumstances, and is not designed or intended to cause pain or if the employee uses reasonable force, for the protection of the employee, the student and the other students. It is also not considered corporal punishment if the teacher is trying to gain control of a weapon that may be in the student’s possession.   
  • Grants immunity from civil or criminal liability and any disciplinary action if the physical contact is reasonable under certain circumstances.
  • Requires each school district to report to the Department an annual count of all instances of violence or assault by a student (in a school building, on school grounds or at a school-sponsored event) and to report any time a student is referred for the use of or transfer to a therapeutic classroom. 
  • Appropriates $1.58 million for the therapeutic classroom incentive fund and $500,000 for transportation claims reimbursement.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously and has been sent to the House, where they plan to debate the Senate’s version of the bill. If you have interest in this bill, I would encourage you to take the time to read the contents. I have listed several highlights; however, the bill includes several changes to current policy and practice, and I may not have included an area that is of interest to you.

SF 2356Dyslexia Provisions - During the 2018 legislative session, SF 2360, required the Department to convene a Dyslexia Task Force to make findings and recommendations for legislation or administrative rule changes. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers. The Dyslexia Task Force Report was due in November 2019 and outlines the work of the task force and their recommendations. SF 2356 contains recommendations that came from the Dyslexia Task Force including: 

  • Directs the State Board of Education, in consultation with the Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC), to adopt rules prescribing standards and procedures for approval of a practitioner preparation program offering an advanced dyslexia specialist endorsement issued by the Board of Educational Examiners (BoEE). 
  • Requires the Department to maintain a dyslexia consultant.
  • Establishes an Iowa Dyslexia Board to guide, facilitate, and oversee implementation of dyslexia instruction in Iowa. The Board membership is defined, and the Board is tasked with making recommendations to the Department and AEAs as well as submitting an annual report in November. 
  • Requires the AEAs, contingent on an appropriation, to maintain a dyslexia specialist.
  • Modifies the definition of “dyslexia” used for purposes of the assistance school districts must provide to students who are persistently at risk in reading to develop the skills to read at grade level.
  • Requires the BoEE, by July 2021, to adopt rules developed in collaboration with the IRRC, establishing an advanced dyslexia specialist endorsement.
  • Requires by July 2024, that teachers who hold a license for special education, prekindergarten through third grade, Title 1 teachers/paraprofessionals and all practitioners endorsed to teach English as a second language to complete the IRRC dyslexia overview module.
  • Requires teachers hired after July 2024, to complete the IRRC dyslexia module within one year of hire. 

The bill passed unanimously on the Senate floor and has been sent to the House.

SF 2329 Concussion Care Providers - Adds occupational therapists to the definition of “licensed health care provider” for purposes of state law regarding concussion and brain injury policies for extracurricular interscholastic activities. Duties of such licensed healthcare providers include, but are not limited to, making determinations regarding removal of students from participation in such activities and their return to participation. The bill passed unanimously on the Senate floor and has been sent to the House.

SF 2310Iowa Learning Online (ILO) – Repeals the Iowa Learning Online code section and places an online learning program with the AEAs. The bill requires school districts and accredited nonpublic schools to include in their comprehensive school improvement plan a list and description of the online coursework to be offered to their students and to submit that list to the Department. The bill requires the Department to adopt rules to ensure that the online learning coursework offered by school districts, accredited nonpublic schools, and AEAs is rigorous, high quality and aligned with the Iowa core standards and is taught by a licensed teacher. The Department will maintain a list of approved providers. School districts and accredited nonpublic schools providing online learning coursework not purchased or accessed through an approved provider must submit its online curricula to the Department for review. Each participating school district and accredited nonpublic school will pay AEAs the cost of providing the online learning program coursework. The bill passed unanimously on the Senate floor and has been sent to the House.

SF 2261Telehealth in Schools - Expands the opportunities for students to access mental health services in schools by offering parents/guardians access to services with a licensed professional mental health provider and to receive services through an electronic encounter in the school setting. An amendment was approved on the floor that allows a valid provider-patient relationship to be established through:

  • An in-person encounter which includes an in-person medical interview and physical examination conducted under the standard of care required for an in-person encounter.  
  • Consultation with a primary care provider who has an established relationship with the patient and who agrees to participate in or supervise the patient’s care.
  • Telehealth, if the standard of care does not require an in-person encounter, in accordance with evidence-based standards of practice and telehealth practice guidelines that address the clinical and technological aspects of telehealth, and the student’s parent or guardian is present.

The bill passed unanimously on the Senate floor and has been sent to the House.

SF 2153School Health Screenings - Prohibits school districts from administering or conducting health screenings not required by state or federal law unless parental consent has been acquired. The bill passed unanimously on the Senate floor with amendments that make exceptions for emergent care, emancipated minors, and mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse. Language was added that a student health screening does not include an episodic, individual screening done in accordance with professional licensed practice. There was also an amendment to the amendment, that allows a school district to do a health screening, such as take a temperature, if there is a public health emergency as deemed by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Bills that passed on the House floor and were sent to the Senate:

HF 2418 – School Budget Review Committee – Authorizes the Department to notify the BoEE if an error in reporting impacts an individual’s licensure experience. The notification from the Department certifying that a district error in a basic education survey would have impacted an individual’s licensure will be sufficient for the BoEE to correct any licensure experience based on incorrect information. The bill passed unanimously on the House floor and has been sent to the Senate.

HF 2359 - Teacher Preparation Reports – Eliminates the requirement that higher education institutions providing practitioner preparation administer a pre-professional skills test. If an institution offers the test, they must annually, by August, report the results to the Department, and the Department is required to post the results on its website. The bill passed unanimously on the House floor and has been sent to the Senate.

HF 2340 Iowa 529 Plans - Permits the use of Iowa 529 plan funds for certain beneficiaries to attend out-of-state elementary and secondary schools. The bill passed unanimously on the House floor and has been sent to the Senate. 

A bill that passed late last week and was not included in my legislative update is HF 2516 - Open Enrollment Good Cause, which expands the definition of “good cause” for open enrollment to include a situation where a child's parent or guardian’s place of employment is located in a noncontiguous school district. The bill allows a parent or guardian to notify the resident and receiving school districts that good cause exists for failure to meet the March 1 deadline for open enrollment. The bill went through the Committee on Local Government and was voted on as a Committee of the Whole (a process by which a committee meets and initially considers legislation in lieu of a subcommittee’s consideration of legislation) and passed with a vote of 11-10. The bill is eligible for debate on the House floor.

There are only three weeks remaining until the second funnel. When a bill is sent to the other chamber, it once again has to work its way through the legislative process. If you are interested in learning more about the legislative process, I have included the link to the Resources and Civic Education webpage. Typically, both chambers have daily debates, which is where details of the bill are discussed. I've included the link to the Debate Eligibility Calendar, where you can click on either chamber to see what is scheduled to be debated for that day. Since the legislative process is complicated, with lots of moving pieces, the debate schedule can change frequently. Until next week...

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