Legislative Update for 01/15/2021

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Legislative Update for 01/15/2021

Renee Jerman

The first session of the 89th General Assembly has begun! This also begins my career as the new legislative liaison for the Iowa Department of Education (Department). I am excited to be here and provide you with updates and highlights of bills as they move through the legislative process. Before arriving at the Department, I spent the last 21 years with the Iowa Department of Transportation in their Policy and Legislative Services Office as the legislative analyst. Shan Seivert, who previously served as the legislative liaison, accepted another position within the Department. 

The first day of session was January 11. There are 110 days in the first legislative session, and the 110th day falls on April 30. The first funnel lands on Friday, March 5 (the date by which bills need to be voted out of a House or Senate Committee to stay alive). The second funnel (the deadline for bills to be voted out of one chamber and out of committee in the other chamber to survive) lands on April 2.

The current make-up of the House consists of 59 Republican and 41 Democratic legislators. The House Education Committee Chair and Vice-Chair have changed. Dustin Hite is the new House Education Chair and Skyler Wheeler is the new Vice-Chair. The House Education Ranking Member remains the same with Ras Smith. On the House Education Committee, there are 15 Republican and eight Democratic legislators. 

In the Senate, there are currently 31 Republican legislators, with the resignation of Senator Miller-Meeks who was elected to Congress; a special election is scheduled for January 26 to fill the Senate District seat. Senator Nunn is on military duty for the 2021 session, reducing the number of Republican Senators to 30. In the Senate Education Committee, Amy Sinclair is the Chair, Jeff Taylor is the new Vice-Chair, and Herman Quirmbach remains the Ranking Member. The Senate Education Committee is comprised of ten Republican and five Democratic legislators. 

Click here for a list of all legislators and here for both the House and Senate Education Committees. 

Governor Kim Reynolds delivered the Condition of the State address on January 12. She shared priorities in education which included in-person learning and school choice. She also identified work-based learning experiences as a priority. I’ve included a link to the full speech.

The Department submitted two policy bills and six technical code corrections/clarifications bills. They are as follows:

Senior Year Plus Proficiency Requirements - Requires a student to have demonstrated proficiency in reading, math, and science as evidenced by achievement scores on the latest administration of the statewide assessment. If a student is not proficient in one or more of the content areas, they can demonstrate proficiency through measures of college readiness jointly agreed upon by the school board and the postsecondary institution, and by other qualifying measures that may be established by the local school boards. The bill also establishes provisions for students who are receiving competent private instruction. The language passed the Senate last legislative session but did not make it to the House floor.

Open Enrollment Tuition Following the Student – Resolves as an issue that occurs when a student is open enrolled, moves to a different district prior to count date, and continues their open enrollment. The bill language changes “first district of residence” to the district that counts the student in its certified enrollment and ensures the billed district is the one that received funding for the student.

The remainder of bills are technical code corrections/clarifications:

Open Enrollment Billing for the District Providing the Prekindergarten Special Education Service – Provides a means for the serving district to bill the resident district for special education services. Adds prekindergarten special education pupils to the list for which notification for open enrollment is needed and makes corresponding amendment language changes to address the addition of this population of students.

Open Enrollment Adding a Good Cause Reason – Adds a change in a child’s residence that is not due to a change in family residence, guardianship, or custody proceeding to the list of “good cause” reasons for late filed open enrollment.

Child Development Assistance Duplicative Duties – Proposes to delete two duties that are duplicative of other efforts in the statewide early childhood system and is proposed at the request of the Child Development Coordinating Council.

Programs At-Risk Children - Allows area education agencies (AEAs) to provide technical assistance to Shared Visions grantees that are not school districts.  Currently, they are limited to serving only districts. This expands the AEAs' ability to support quality programming and updates antiquated language.

Eliminates the Non Profit School Organization Report to the Department - Removes the requirement that districts report expenditures made by the school district on behalf of certain non profit school organizations to the Department and for the Department to include this information in its Annual Condition of Education Report. Districts have to seek out this information from other entities, as this information is not typically maintained by the districts.

Duties and Powers of AEA Board- Increases the dollar threshold for AEA capital projects requiring State Board of Education approval from $25,000 to $70,000.

Funding for Special Programs, Update Method of Calculation - Aligns to the current automated calculation process used by the Department. Current statute relating to the funding for special programs includes an outdated calculation method, which required a manual calculation by districts. 

The language for the Department bills can be found on the General Assembly pre-filed legislation web page at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/billTracking/prefiledBills

You can track and monitor bills utilizing the Department’s bill tracking site

For your convenience, I have included the link to The Iowa Legislature website. There are tabs at the top where you can choose the area you are interested in, such as legislators, legislation or committees. I have also included the Iowa 89th General Assembly Session timetable.

Week one was busy setting up procedures for the legislative session. The next several weeks will be filled with a flurry of bills and an abundance of subcommittees and committee meetings.  As the session progresses, I will keep you updated and highlight bills as they move through the legislative process. Until next week...

Renee Jerman
Legislative Liaison
Iowa Department of Education
Grimes State Office Building
400 E 14th St
Des Moines, IA 50319-0146
Cell: 515-729-0859
Office: 515-281-3399