Iowa GOP Makes Changes To School Curriculum Approval Bill

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A modified version of the Republican-led teacher curriculum-review bill is being debate on the Iowa House floor this evening.

The new version of the bill, House File 2577, trimmed the estimated cost of implementing the new “transparency” policies from $27.4 million annually for school districts to $16.4 million annually, according to the nonpartisan Iowa Legislative Services Agency (LSA).

The LSA’s estimate is based on school districts finding enough substitute teachers to cover the full-time teachers’ classrooms while they compile all the materials for inspection. Iowa is in the midst of a substitute teacher shortage in addition to its full-time teacher shortage.

Here’s what else is different—and what remains the same—about HF 2577 compared to its predecessors:

According to the bill, a school district has to adopt a policy for parents of enrolled students to review instructional materials in the classroom, which is something most districts already have in place.

This policy now includes charter schools, which were previously exempt, but still does not include private schools.

The bill also allows parents to opt their students out of receiving certain instructional materials. The district’s “transparency” policy will need to be prominently displayed on its website and the school board should provide district parents with either an electronic or written version of the policy annually.

Districts would need to have available electronic or printed textbooks, a course syllabus or written summary of the material that will be taught in the class, an explanation on how the class meets or exceeds state educational standards, and a “list of all instructional materials that will be used in the student’s class.”

HF 2577 doesn’t extensively detail what is considered “instructional material,” but a previous version of the bill noted educators would need to provide all their textbooks, books, articles, syllabi, website links, outlines, handouts, presentations, videos, and other educational materials

The previous version of this bill only allowed teachers to modify instructional materials twice a year. The new version allows teachers to update instructional materials during the school year, but districts have to update the website with this new information within seven days.

HF 2577 gives school districts until July 1, 2024, to be in compliance.

School districts would also have to make a comprehensive list of all books available in its school libraries; however, districts that don’t have an electronic catalog by July 1, 2025, may apply for a waiver.

A districts’ website also would have to provide instructions on how a parent of an enrolled student can request the removal of a book from a school library. The form to request a book’s removal must be displayed prominently on the website.

HF 2577 also slightly tweaks the previous language on how a parent can request to get a library book removed. 

Within 15 business days of receiving a library material removal or reconsideration request—or a later mutually agreed upon date—the district will review the materials described in the request and provide written notification to the parent of its recommendation to the board of education.   

The school board will then act on the recommendation at its next regular meeting or within 30 business days if the board and parent come to a written agreement on a date. After the meeting, the board will provide the parent with written notification of its decision.

If the parent disagrees with the school board’s decision, they can file an appeal to the Iowa State Board of Education. Additionally, if the school district hasn’t acted on the parent’s initial book removal request, the parent can appeal to the state board of education which can then direct the local school board to comply with the removal process.

Another change to the bill is that school district websites have to publish “information related to the training and professional development courses and programs offered by the school district in which employees of the school district have participated during the current school year.”

If a school district is found to be in noncompliance with the sections regarding instructional materials, library material removal, or professional development, the Iowa Department of Education will give the district 14 days to comply. 

If the district does not comply, the department of education can issue the district a civil penalty of no less than $500 but no more than $5,000. The department will also notify the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners of teachers found in violation of the law. The board has the power to discipline teachers or strip them of their licenses. 

 

by Ty Rushing
03/29/22

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