Legislative Update for 06/15/2020

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Legislative Update for 06/15/2020

Shanlyn Seivert

Adjournment Sine Die! Which means the 2020 legislative session has adjourned! A lot has been accomplished in the last several days since the legislative session resumed following its suspension due to COVID-19. Below are bills that passed and are on their way to the Governor as well as the bills that were active prior to the legislative session suspension, but did not pass. 

Bills that are on the way to the Governor:

SF 2261 - Telehealth in Schools - Expands the opportunities for students to access mental health services with a licensed professional mental health provider by offering parents/guardians access to services through an electronic encounter in the school setting. Additional provisions include:

  • 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.
  • Public schools, accredited nonpublic schools, or AEAs can provide a secure, confidential, private area to conduct telehealth services.
  • The use of telehealth as one way to establish the patient provider relationship, 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.

SF 2310 – Iowa Learning Online (ILO) – Repeals the Iowa Learning Online (ILO) code section. The bill establishes the foundation and structure for the online learning platform that the Department of Education (Department) and Area Education Agencies (AEAs) are making available when school resumes in the fall. School districts can use the online learning platform or choose to offer online learning using their own learning management systems. There are several provisions to the bill:

  • Requires school districts and accredited nonpublic schools to report to the Department in the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP) all online coursework offered by the school district or accredited nonpublic school.  
  • Requires rules be adopted that online learning coursework offered by school districts, accredited nonpublic schools and AEAs be rigorous, high-quality, aligned with Iowa core standards, aligned with national standards of quality for online courses, and taught by an Iowa licensed teacher with specialized training or experience in online learning. 
  • Requires districts and accredited nonpublic schools that provide online coursework not purchased through a provider approved by the Department to submit online curricula to the Department for review.  The Department must review curricula for alignment with Iowa core standards and national standards of quality for online courses.
  • Permits school districts or accredited nonpublic schools to offer world language, personal finance literacy, or computer science courses online without the requirement of an offer and teach waiver, if the school district or accredited nonpublic school makes every reasonable and good faith effort to employ a licensed teacher for the specified subject and is unable to employ such teacher or fewer than 10 students register for the specified subject. 
  • Allows for two courses to be offered online without the requirement of an offer and teach waiver, if the school district or accredited nonpublic school makes every reasonable and good faith effort to employ a licensed teacher for the specified subject and is unable to employ such teacher or fewer than 10 students register for the specified subject. 
  • Allows a school district or accredited nonpublic school to request an additional waiver of the offer and teach requirements from the Department for up to two additional courses annually.
  • Requires the online learning platform to deliver services to students who are receiving independent private instruction (IPI) and competent private instruction (CPI), or private instruction by a non-licensed person.
  • Provides for additional flexibility for use of professional development dollars for fiscal year 2021. During the 2020-2021 school year, school districts may use any portion of the 36 required hours for professional development to provide instructional time in addition to the amount of required instructional time.
  • Provides school calendar flexibility for school districts and accredited nonpublic schools that submit a Return-to-Learn Plan in response to school closures due to a Governor proclamation of a public health emergency related to COVID-19. Any Return-to-Learn Plan submitted by a school district or accredited nonpublic school must include provisions for in-person instruction and provide that in-person instruction is the presumed method of instruction. This provision is repealed on July 1, 2021. 
  • Allows until July 15, 2020, for a parent to apply to open-enroll a student for the 2020-2021 school year, in an online public school in another school district if the child, the child's caretaker, or another resident of the child's residence has a significant health condition that may increase the risk of COVID-19. 
  • Requires school districts to submit a report to the Department that will include beginning fund balances for the budget year beginning July 1, 2020, and any savings to the school district resulting from the closure of schools due to COVID-19 for the budget year, July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020. Specifies the information to be provided.

The bill also offers flexibility for the 2020-2021 school year for certain educational and instructional requirements. Those provisions are as follows: 

  • Authorizes students receiving CPI be provided available texts or supplementary materials on the same basis as provided to enrolled students. 
  • Authorizes school boards, if the Governor proclaims a public health disaster, to close a school district due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in the school district or any school district attendance center.  
  • States the minimum school day requirements will not be waived for school closures due to COVID-19 unless the school district or accredited nonpublic school provides compulsory remote learning. 
  • Requires school staff to be available during regular required contract hours, if a remote learning period is necessary. 
  • Specifies if a student who is enrolled in a school district or accredited nonpublic school, but who does not participate in compulsory remote-learning opportunities that are implemented due to COVID-19, will be considered truant. There are exceptions outlined in the bill. 
  • Permits the Department to waive certain teacher-endorsement requirements. 
  • Requires when implementing social distancing policies included in a Return-to Learn Plan, school districts and accredited nonpublic schools to the extent possible, provide in-person instruction for core academic subjects.  
  • Specifies that the implementation of statewide assessments will not be waived. 
  • Allows a student to graduate who has not met the requirements of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Certification (CPR), if the school district or accredited nonpublic school was closed due to recommendation of a local board of health, the Iowa Department of Public Health, or because the Governor proclaims a public health disaster. 
  • Outlines provisions and accommodations for students with individualized education programs (IEP) or who are in need of accommodations. The student’s IEP and accommodation team will determine accommodations.
  • States a school district or accredited nonpublic school, in response to COVID-19, may primarily provide virtual instruction if such instruction is provided in accordance with the school’s Return-to-Learn Plan submitted to the Department regardless of if the school is typically a virtual school.

Due to the complexity of SF 2310 and the number of last minute language changes that were completed in the final days of session, the Department will be facilitating a webinar for school administrators to address questions. The webinar recording will be posted to the Department's COVID webpage on Wednesday morning.  

SF 2356 - Dyslexia Provisions - Accomplishes the following:

  • Requires the State Board of Education and BoEE, in collaboration with the Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC), to adopt rules by July 1, 2021, regarding the establishment of an advanced Dyslexia Specialist endorsement.
  • Directs the Department to have a dedicated Dyslexia Consultant by July 1, 2024. 
  • Establishes an Iowa Dyslexia Board and specifies the membership. Requires the Board to provide its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly annually in November, and repeals the Board on July 1, 2025. 
  • Subject to an appropriation, directs each AEA board to dedicate at least one FTE position to be a Dyslexia Specialist and outlines duties of that position.
  • Requires completion of the IRRC Dyslexia Overview module by designated AEA and school district employees by July 1, 2024.
  • Provides an updated definition for dyslexia. 

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 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 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 IEPs. 
  • Expects teachers/administrators to have a basic understanding of federal law as it relates to students with disabilities. 
  • Creates a therapeutic classroom incentive grant program to provide competitive grants to school districts. Establishes grant award provisions to ensure equitable distribution among small, medium and large school districts.   
  • 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 AEAs, 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.  
  • Protects a school employee from reprisal or retaliation from their employer and the BoEE in the event that during their course of fulfilling their responsibilities they come in physical contact with a student.  
  • Amends language pertaining to corporal punishment.
  • 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. 
  • Amends the appropriation date for the therapeutic classroom fund and the therapeutic classroom transportation claims reimbursement from fiscal year 2021 to fiscal year 2022. 

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.

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.

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 report the results to the Department by August of each year, and the Department is required to post the results on its website. 

HF 2418 - Basic Education Data Survey (BEDS) Corrections - 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 BEDS would have impacted an individual’s license will be sufficient for the BoEE to correct any licensure experience based on incorrect information. In addition, the School Budget Review Committee (SBRC) may grant a modified supplemental amount (MSA) for at-risk, alternative school, and returning dropout and dropout prevention programs for school districts that submit a request after January 15, but before March 1, of the budget year preceding the budget year during which the program will be offered.  

HF 2585 - Deaf/Hard of Hearing - Replaces the terms hearing impaired and deaf with hard of hearing and deaf or hard of hearing.

HF 2629 - Future Ready Iowa - Designed to strengthen Iowa’s workforce, the bill has five divisions. 

Division I: Future Ready Iowa Apprenticeship Development Program

  • Provides financial assistance to encourage sponsors of apprenticeship programs with 20 or fewer apprentices to maintain apprenticeship programs in high demand occupations. 

Division II: Iowa Child Care Challenge Fund

  • Provides matching state funding to encourage businesses, nonprofits and other partners to establish or expand local child care facilities through new construction or renovations.

Division III: Computer Science Instruction

  • Expands access to computer science instruction to all K-12 students across the state.
  • High schools will offer at least a one-semester computer science course by July 1, 2022.
  • Middle and elementary schools will offer computer science instruction in at least one grade level each by July 1, 2023.
  • The Department will develop a K-12 state computer science plan by July 1, 2021.
  • School districts/nonpublic schools will develop K-12 computer science plans by July 1, 2022.
  • A computer science work group will recommend how to strengthen computer science instruction and develop a statewide campaign to promote computer science to students.

Division IV: Future Ready Iowa Skilled Workforce Last Dollar Scholarship Program

  • Expands eligibility for the Last Dollar Scholarship Program.

Division V: Senior Year Plus Program and Postsecondary Enrollment Options

  • Expands opportunities for high school students to earn college credit without families having to pay tuition by lifting the current annual 23-credit cap for concurrent enrollment.

HF 2643 - Appropriations - Appropriated a status quo budget for the Department. It also added policy language and technical corrections to certain areas of the Iowa Code. The bill includes nonpublic concurrent enrollment reversion/non-reversion language, which allows funds to carry forward between fiscal years, with the exception of fiscal year 2021. This will allow carry forward this year and those funds will revert at the end of fiscal year 2021. 

HF 2443 - Senior Year Plus Proficiency Requirements for Concurrent Enrollment - While originally thought to have passed, this bill was passed in the Senate but was not taken up by the House. The Department is working on guidance and will provide additional information to school districts and community colleges regarding students who are interested in concurrent enrollment.

Below are bills that survived the first funnel, but did not pass this legislative session. If you would like a description of the bill it is included in my Legislative Update for 2/21/20.

SF 2258 - Guardianship Verification 
SF 2224 - Guns and School Transports
SF 2184 - Carrying on School Grounds
SF 2155 - Extra Bonding Capacity, School Resource Officers 
SF 2101 - Declaration of Independence 
SF 2066 - Concussion Care Providers
SF 2041 - Physical Education Exemption for Show Choir
SF 2009 - Minor Driver’s License 
SF 199 - Voluntary Diversity Plans
HF 2539 - Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children 
HF 2497 - Modified Supplemental Amounts/At Risk and Drop-out 
HSB 531 - Special Minor Driver’s License 
HF 2460 - Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program (SWVPP)
HF 2419 - English Proficiency Weighting
HF 2370 - Poverty Supplemental Work Group
HF 2194 - Special Minor Driver’s License Minimum Age
HF 2169 - Stop the Bleed
HF 2120 - Suicide Prevention Protocols
SF 438 - Omnibus Bill
SF 316 - Special Education Interim Study Committee

The 2020 legislative session was the second year of the 88th General Assembly, which means that bills that did not pass this legislative session will need to start from the beginning next legislative session. 

Each year the Department sends a letter to school districts outlining the bills that passed during the current legislative session and how those bills will impact districts. In the coming weeks, we will be finalizing that letter. Also, for the bills that are extensive, the Department will provide additional guidance to assist school districts with next steps and implementation.

If you would like to see the bills that have passed this legislative session, I have attached the link to the Enrolled Bills webpage. The page shows the date the bill passed, when the Governor signed the bill, and the effective date. Also, if you are interested in watching the floor debate of a particular bill, I’ve attached the link to the In the Chambers, click Bill Archives for either the House or Senate and it will take you to the beginning of the video for that bill. Lastly, if you would like to read any of my previous updates, here is the link to the Department’s Legislative webpage, which includes legislative bill tracking, updates, reports, and guidance. 

In the meantime, if you have questions regarding education bills, please feel free to contact me.

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