When Reynolds’ Voucher Plan Failed, It Also Took Down These GOP Education Bills

Iowa Senate screenshot

A number of education reform bills desired by Gov. Kim Reynolds and other Iowa Republican officials wound up lumped together in Senate File 2369, which covered curriculum review, the parental bill of rights, vouchers, and more.

The bill passed through the Iowa Senate but never moved forward in the Iowa House after a number of Republican House members broke ranks to oppose the bill primarily for the portion of it that would divert $55 million in public school funds to private schools.

Starting Line covered the voucher aspect of Senate File 2369 earlier this week, but another notable part of the bill that didn’t come to fruition was a section that combined previous attempts to establish a “parental bill of rights” and create a cumbersome curriculum review process that would have swamped teachers and cost schools money to administer. 

Some earlier versions of the parental bill of rights simply codified parents’ general rights when it comes to their students and the schools, but the Senate File 2369 also included the curriculum review standards and other policies.

The bill would have required teachers to publish in advance every textbook, book, article, outline, handout, presentation, video, and anything used in student instruction, and school districts would have had until July 1, 2025, to make those things accessible via the internet.

For that to happen, teachers would have to spend significant time documenting every minor aspect of their lesson plan and the Iowa Legislative Services Agency’s low-ball estimate for that cost to school districts was $27.4 million annually, while other sources estimated at least twice that. 

Senate File 2369 bill didn’t include additional funding for those measures.

It also gave parents the right to access and review information about teachers, guest lecturers, and outside presenters. Additionally, parents—unless prohibited by court order—would also have access to their children while they are in school in a manner that a “reasonable person would deem necessary.”

It would also make it law for parents to access and review information about their child including assessment information, documents created by the child, and teacher evaluations about the child. Basically, test scores, take-home art projects, and report cards would be legally protected.

School districts would not be able to require students to engage in any activity that involves sexually explicit material without parental response. This bit of the law was a response to previous attempts to ban books with LGBTQ characters exploring their sexuality.

Some of the books that kicked off the book-banning controversies in Iowa didn’t actually fit Iowa’s legal definition of “obscenity.” However, the parental bill of rights portion of 2369 corrected that by noting “lewd exhibition of the genitals”—this is basically in response to “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe—and “visual depiction that suggests sexual coyness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity, or any visual depiction that is intended or designed to elicit a sexual response from the viewer” would be considered sexually explicit.

Another part of the law says school districts would have to make every attempt to prevent students from being able to access sexually explicit material from school-issued devices or the school’s computer network, which, again, is something most schools already do, especially if it has a device-sharing program in place. (See the top of page seven of this 6-year-old district policy on handling adult materials on devices.)

This bill also would legally require school libraries to maintain a digital catalog of materials accessible to parents and for school libraries without a digital catalog, parents would have the right to physically inspect materials.  Again, these were things parents could already do. It also allowed parents to tell a school library to prohibit their child from checking out certain materials.

 

by Ty Rushing
05/29/22

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