Legislative Update for 05/07/2021

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Legislative Update for 05/07/2021

Renee Jerman


Work continues on the appropriations and policy bills in both chambers. The legislature will be back at work on Monday, May 10 to continue the discussions and legislative process on bills that they want to move. The scheduled adjournment date was Friday, April 30. Please find below legislative activity from the past two weeks.

Senate floor action:

HF602 School Activity Accounts - Authorizes the board of directors of a school district to, for the school budget years beginning on July 1, 2020, 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 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 Would take effect upon enactment and be repealed on July 1, 2023.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 bill is ready to be sent to the Governor.

HF802 Racism or Sexism Training - Prohibits all agencies, governmental entities, governmental subdivisions, and contractors hired by these agencies from giving training, or using contractors that give training, that teaches, advocates, and acts upon. Requires the superintendent of each school district to ensure that any curriculum or mandatory staff or student training does not teach, advocate, act upon, or promote specific defined concepts as outlined in the bill. Provides that discrimination is prohibited, and clarifies that the bill should not be construed to violate first amendment rights. The bill is ready to be sent to the Governor.

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 IX 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.

The bill is ready to be sent to the Governor.


HF847 Education Practices 

Division I of the bill requires the State Board of Education to establish a flexible student and school support program. The program is to be administered by the Department of Education, 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. Changes the open enrollment athletic ineligibility period from 90 school days to 90 calendar days (takes effect upon enactment and also applies retroactively to January 1, 2021, for open enrollment requests approved on or after that date). 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 of Education. 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. 

The bill was amended on the Senate floor:

  • Removed the bill change for the 90-day period for athletic eligibility period using calendar days instead of school days; and reverts back to current code to using school days. 
  • Added if a student open enrolls in a different district or nonpublic school anytime during the 2020-2021 school year, and re-enrolls in their home district before July 1, 2021, they will be eligible to participate in sports immediately. Effective upon enactment and retroactive to July 2020.
  • Gives a school district's board of directors, and authorities in charge of nonpublic schools the authority to allow students to not wear face coverings, if the principal believes that no face covering is in the best interest of the student.  
  • Places a limit on the number of charter schools able to be approved by the State Board of Education. The limit will allow one attendance center per level (elementary, middle and secondary) per 10,000 students in a geographic area. 
    • Requires charter schools to abide by Code Chapter 22 relating to the examination of public records.
    • Requires the chief administrator of a charter, who is not licensed as an administrator or a teacher to have Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE) authorization under Code Chapter 272 that will be developed by the BOEE by December 31, 2021.
    • Changes language to clarify that the charter school must notify the student by March 1 of the school year preceding the year of enrollment.

HF847 has been sent back to the House to ask for concurrence on the above Senate amendment H-1425.

HF868 Education Appropriations FY 2022

Includes funding provided in SF 2360 (Classroom Environment and Therapeutic Classrooms Act) from the 2020 Session, which can also be found within the Notes on Bills and Amendments (NoBA) for SF2360, page 2.Those appropriations include:

  • $500,000 to the Department of Education for developing standards and guidance on behavior in the classroom, restraint of a student, least restrictive environment, and research-based intervention strategies. 
  • $500,000 to the Department of Education for reimbursement to school district claims for therapeutic classroom transportation. 

Last night the bill was amended on the House floor, and the amendment is largely a codification of current accreditation practices. It also includes school accountability and administrative measures, monitoring, and petition provisions. The bill has been sent over to the Senate.

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 bill is ready for the Governor.

SF546 Homeschooling Provisions - Changes assessment and reporting deadlines for competent private instruction. Changes the definition of competent private instruction to include private instruction by a parent, guardian, or legal custodian. Eliminates or reduces various requirements for driver education courses administered by teaching parents, making them easier to complete.  The bill is ready for the Governor.

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. 

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