Where Education Bills Stand In The Iowa Legislature

House Speaker Pat Grassley pounds the gavel during the opening day of the Iowa Legislature, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

This year’s Iowa Legislative session—which started Jan. 10 and is still going—saw the introduction of more than 50 education bills.

These bills covered a wide swath of proposals, everything from jailing teachers and librarians to banning the use of indigenous mascots in public schools.

As of Friday, a number of those education bills are dead but some still have a chance at becoming law.

Let’s take a look at where some of those proposals stand:

Passed: 

House File 2316 provides Iowa public schools with a 2.5% increase in supplemental aid funding. This amount was less than what educators and Democratic lawmakers hoped for and is below the inflation rate. It was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Feb. 17.

House File 2416 banned transgender female athletes from competing on girls’/womens’ teams in sanctioned sports at the K-12 and collegiate levels. Reynolds signed the bill on March 3.

Still Alive:

House Study Bill 672/Senate File 2369 are sibling bills that include a litany of the more heavily-debated education reform proposals. This includes Gov. Kim Reynolds’ scholarship (voucher) program, the extensive and expensive curriculum-review process, and the parental ability to remove library books from schools.  

Reynolds’ proposal would allocate $55.2 million from Iowa’s general fund to create 10,000 tax-payer-funded scholarships to private schools. Those same private schools would be exempt from the new curriculum-review process, which we’ll get into later.

While it is a legislative priory for the governor, the voucher-adjacent program hasn’t seen much traction in the Iowa House or Senate. That said, it is still alive. House Speaker Pat Grassley placed it in the Appropriation Subcommittee, which subsequently placed it into its own subcommittee. 

The Senate placed it on its “unfinished business” calendar, which, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch, allows it to survive any funnel requirements.

OK, back to the curriculum review process mentioned earlier.

So under the guise of “transparency,” educators would need to provide all their textbooks, books, articles, syllabi, website links, outlines, handouts, presentations, videos, and other educational materials for documentation, review, and approval twice a year. Anything used in student instruction would need to be published on the school district’s website by Aug. 23 and again by Jan. 15.

That standard would apply to each class in the school district and materials have to be sorted by subject area, grade level, and teacher. Also, the publishing dates fall around the start of the school year and the end of winter break, so teachers would have to create lesson plans months ahead of time for each class they teach

The low-ball estimate for this proposal is $27.4 million a year and a higher estimate places it at $54 million a year.

This one gets a little complex. The curriculum review process is part of House Study Bill 672/Senate File 2369, but it’s also part of House File 2499 (formerly House Study Bill 706). A subcommittee for HF 2499 will meet at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 23.

Another aspect of all three bills is they allow parents with children enrolled in the school district to request the removal of materials from a school library. If a parent asks for the removal or reconsideration of school library material, within 10 business days—unless both sides agree to a set date—the school district must review the material and provide a response.

The parent can also ask the school board to directly intervene in this situation. If the school and the school board both deny a parent’s request to remove certain materials, the parent can appeal to the Iowa State Board of Education.

In-between: 

Senate Study Bill 3079/SF 2205 was Republican Sen. Amy Sinclair’s “parental bill of rights,” an attempt to codify policies and procedures for parents to access information that was already available to them. 

The bill itself is dead but its ideas are not. The Des Moines Register reports that parts of it could be added to other “transparency” bills that are still kicking (see above section).

Dead (probably):

HF 2177 was Republican Rep. Norlin Mommsen’s bill to place cameras in nearly every public school classroom at the expense of the school district. It died in dramatic fashion minutes before a subcommittee hearing on it.

HF 2176, a House Republican-led bill that made it illegal for a person affiliated with a public school or public library to knowingly spread “material the person knows or reasonably should know, is obscene or harmful to minors,” never gained any traction. The bill also included provisions to fine and jail school librarians.

SF 2198/SF 2364 was Republican Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman’s wide-ranging bill that covered everything from civil litigation to how long a teacher should be placed in jail for assigning certain books to stripping county attorneys of legal immunity for not acting on obscene material cases in a timely manner.

Chapman’s bill did not move in his chamber. House Speaker Pat Grassley told Iowa Capital Dispatch his chamber would not support any proposal that created criminal penalties for teachers. 

HF 2053 was Rep. Sandy Salmon’s bill to have history and social studies teachers teach both sides of any issue deemed controversial was indefinitely postponed by an Iowa House Education Subcommittee. 

HF 2224 was introduced by Dem lawmakers and it would have phased out the use of Native American mascots in Iowa public schools. It was referred to the Iowa House Education Committee and no further action was taken. 

HJR 2001 was another proposal by Iowa Dems that would have allowed voters to vote on a constitutional amendment that would prevent the Iowa Legislature from banning books. It was referred to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee and no further action was taken.

SF 2043 was Republican Sen. Adrian Dickey’s bill to require teachers to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and stand while doing so. It was referred to a subcommittee and no further action was taken. 

 

While there are always ways that various pieces of legislation or their underlying ideas can get resurrected later in a session, all indications point to these measures being truly done for the year.

 

by Ty Rushing
03/23/22

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