Legislative Update for 03/26/21

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Legislative Update for 03/26/21

Renee Jerman

It is feeling like we are getting closer to the second funnel. Work in subcommittee meetings continued this week along with floor debate. The second funnel date is Friday, April 2, where most bills will need to make it out of the first chamber of origin and then a full committee of the second chamber to remain alive. Of course, this does not apply to Appropriations, Ways and Means, Government Oversight or leadership bills.

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

HF813 Charter School - Establishes a new charter school program in Chapter 256E. 

Section I and II lists the purposes for which a charter school shall be established and provides definitions.

Section III gives the Department of Education (Department) the duty to monitor the effectiveness of charter schools and implement this chapter. 

Sections IV and V create two potential models for establishing a charter school. Section IV is called the School Board-State Board model, and allows a school board to create a founding group to apply to the Iowa State Board of Education to establish and operate a charter school within and as part of a school district. The other model, in Section V, is called the Founding Group-State Board model, which allows a founding group to apply to the State Board for approval to establish and operate a charter school that operates as a new attendance center independently from a public school district.

Section VI establishes a charter school contract between the founding group and the State Board setting the academic and operational performance expectations and measures by which the charter school will be evaluated and other rights and duties. An initial charter school contract is required to be granted for a term of five school budget years.

Section VII sets out the operating powers and duties of a charter school. It also says that a charter school established under this chapter is “exempt from all state statutes and rules and any local rule, regulation, or policy, applicable to a non charter school” and provides a list of exceptions. 

Section VIII specifies how the charter schools shall be funded, including that a student enrolled in the charter school shall be counted for state school foundation purposes in the student’s district of residence. The school district of residence then pays funds to the charter school in which the student is enrolled. 

Section VIIII requires the State Board to adopt a performance framework that clearly sets forth the academic and operational performance indicators, measures, and metrics that will guide the evaluation of the charter school by the State Board. 

Section X addresses oversight, corrective action, contract renewal, and contract revocation. 

Section XI outlines the procedures for the closure of a charter school. 

Section XII requires that each charter school prepare and file an annual report with the Department. The State Board is also required to prepare and file with the General Assembly a comprehensive report with findings and recommendations relating to the charter school program and whether the charter school program is meeting the goals and purposes of the program.

 HF847 Education Practices  

Division I of the bill requires the State Board to establish a flexible student and school support program. The program is to be administered by the Department, who may grant a school the ability to use the program to implement evidence-based practices in innovative ways to enhance student learning, well-being, and postsecondary success. The bill specifies the required contents of a school’s application to use the program and says that participating schools must file an annual report. Provides that funds received from the teacher leadership supplement which are unexpended and unobligated for a school district who has met all requirements for use of said funds can be transferred to a school district’s flexibility account. 

Division II of the bill allows eligible educators to have a tax deduction of up to 500 dollars for certain teacher expenses. Expands the tuition and textbook tax credit from 25 percent of the first 1,000 dollars spent to 25 percent of the first 2,000 dollars spent and allows dependents receiving private instruction to also be eligible for the credit. These all apply retroactively to January 1, 2021, for tax years beginning on or after that date.

Division III adds several circumstances where a student athlete is eligible to participate immediately in interscholastic athletic competition after participating in open enrollment. These circumstances include: good cause; if the district of residence issues or implements a decision that results in a discontinuance or suspension of varsity interscholastic sports; if the district of residence and receiving district both agree to waive the ineligibility period; and if the district of residence had a voluntary diversity plan in effect on January 1, 2021, for the school year beginning July 1, 2021. Also, if a pupil is ineligible in one district and open enrolls into another, the period of ineligibility carries over and is added to any additional ineligibility periods in the new district. States if a student open enrolls into a nonpublic school and then goes back to the district of residence where they were enrolled on the first day of the school calendar, they may participate immediately in varsity interscholastic contests.

Adds a “consistent failure of the resident district to reasonably respond to a student’s failure to meet basic academic standards” to the category of open enrollment decisions subject to appeal to the State Board. Adds “a change in a child’s resident from the residence of one parent or guardian to the residence of a different parent of guardian,” and “initial placement of a prekindergarten student in a special education program requiring specially designed instruction” to the list of circumstances where the parent has the option to keep their child in the child’s original district of residence under open enrollment with no interruption in their educational program. Clarifies the method of how to discern which district is the first district of residence. Specifies the economic eligibility requirements for open enrollment transportation.

Division IV specifies that a school corporation is entrusted with public funds for the purpose of improving student outcomes.

Division V adds a work-based learning coordinator and a special education director to the list of positions for which supplementary weighting is available for shared operational funding. 

HF847 contains language also found in HF385 and HF316 dealing with open enrollment. 

Subcommittees meetings held this week:

HF602 School Activity Accounts - Authorizes the board of directors of a school district to, for the school budget years beginning on July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022, transfer money from their general fund to the student activity fund in an amount necessary to fund co-curricular and extracurricular activities provided by the district from March 15, 2020, through June 30, 2022, for which moneys from student-related activities fail to meet the financial needs of the activities. Would take effect upon enactment and be repealed on July 1, 2023. The House has passed this bill. The bill passed a subcommittee and is eligible for a vote in the Senate Education Committee.

HF744 Free Speech - Requires school districts to protect the intellectual freedom of the school district’s students and practitioners and to establish and publicize policies that protect students and faculty from discrimination based on speech. The House amended and passed the bill, 97 to 1. The bill passed a subcommittee with an amendment making it eligible for a vote in the Senate Education Committee.

HF802 Racism Training - Prohibits school districts and public postsecondary institutions from giving training, or using contractors that give training, that teaches, advocates, acts upon, or promotes what it calls “divisive concepts.” The bill defines “divisive concepts,” provides that discrimination is prohibited, and clarifies that the bill should not be construed to violate first amendment rights. The House amended and passed the bill, 59 to 38. The bill passed a subcommittee with an amendment making it eligible for a vote in the Senate Education Committee.

SF587 Tax Changes - Increases the state school aid base to 88.4 percent as of the 2022 - 2023 school year in division III and in division VI authorizes a voter-approved property-tax levy for school playground equipment. The bill passed a Ways and Means Committee making it eligible for debate on the Senate floor. 

HF793 Physical Education - Provides that a student who is enrolled in junior reserve officers’ training corps is not required to participate in physical education or physical activities under the state’s educational standards, but shall receive one-eighth unit of physical education credit for each semester (or the equivalent) the student is enrolled in the junior reserve officers’ training corps. The House passed the bill, 92 to 0. The bill passed a subcommittee with an amendment making it eligible for a vote in the Senate Education Committee.

HF318 Statewide Preschool Program - Makes children who turn five between March 15 - September 15 eligible for the statewide preschool program and funding if the school enrolls such students. Applies to the 2022 through 2025 school years. The House has passed this bill. The bill passed a subcommittee with an amendment making it eligible for a vote in the Senate Education Committee.

Subcommittee meeting scheduled for next week:

SF260 Reimbursements for Special Education Services - Requires a receiving school district to send the paperwork necessary for Medicaid reimbursement to the district of residence when a student with special education needs transfers to the receiving district. The Senate passed the bill, 47 to 0. 

The Education Bill Tracking webpage provides regular updates during the Iowa legislative session on bills related to education in Iowa. Information about new bills, including names, numbers, and sponsors are provided.

Enjoy your weekend!

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