Capitol Update - February 8, 2024
UEN Legislative Update
February 8, 2024
This UEN Weekly Report from the 2024 Legislative Session includes:
- UEN Priorities Status
- Governor’s Teacher Salary and AEA Overhaul Conversations Continue
- DE authority over AEAs in IC 273
- Committee Action
- Subcommittee Action
- Advocacy Actions
- Links to Advocacy Resources
UEN Priorities PK, SSA, Open Enrollment Deadlines and School Start Date
- SF 2075 PK Weighting: allows schools to count students below 185% of the FPL for PK weighting, phasing in from 0.5, to 0.75 to 1.0 over three years. Requires instructional hours to match (10, 15, 20). Approved 3-0. UEN supports as a priority.
- HF 2353 PK Weighting was introduced in the House and assigned to a Subcommittee of Reps. Stone, Ehlert and Gehlbach, with a meeting scheduled for Feb. 13 at noon. This bill is different, still allows a weighting of 1.0 for students below 185% of the federal poverty level, requires 24 hours of instruction for those students. However, it also allows ESAs for nonpublic school preschools at 0.5 of the state cost per pupil. UEN has not yet registered on this policy.
- SF 2258 School Foundation Aid: No number in the bill, as it simply states that the legislature will enact SSA during the 2024 Session. The bill was approved in the Senate Education Committee and is assigned to the Senate Calendar. UEN is registered opposed. The SSA increase must at least meet inflation and be set in a timely manner.
- SF 2011 Open Enrollment Deadlines: reinstates a March 1 open enrollment deadline and specifies good cause exceptions to the deadline. Allows an open enrollment requested after the deadline without good cause to proceed if both the sending and receiving school boards agree. The bill is awaiting action by the full Senate Education Committee. UEN supports.
- SF 2010 School Start Date: allows schools to start their Fall calendar beginning no earlier than the Tuesday following the conclusion of the state fair. The Subcommittee recommended amendment and moving the bill to the full Education Committee. UEN supports. This action is also a provision of the Governor’s Charter School bill described below. Although UEN supports the start date flexibility, we are registered opposed to the Charter school provisions.
Teacher Pay and AEA Overhaul Governor’s Bill Status: See last week’s report for a full description of the bill and provisions that UEN has suggested. We anticipate that the House and Senate will each release their proposals on Teacher Pay and AEA changes, which are anticipated to be less drastic than the Governor’s proposal. We continue to advocate for improvement in the bill:
- A study by a credible education research organization to consider how Iowa’s model of identifying students with disabilities as being discrepant from their peers impacts test scores, services provided for students, costs of special education services, and student outcomes.
- A sensible timeline that allows planning for local districts, for AEAs and for the Department. A timeline of just a few months has created chaos and discomfort for staff currently providing services. If change is going to happen, it needs to allow time for local decision-makers to be thoughtful.
- Restore funding for educational services and media services. If legislators believe that the media services are no longer needed, it would be prudent to shift this resource to cyber security, data protection, and technology costs that have grown as the need for delivery of films to schools has decreased.
- Less shift of power to the DE. We support local control, including retention of flow-through dollars and the ability to work with AEAs and other entities to receive needed services.
- Urban school leaders do not seek to disadvantage our rural school neighbors and encourage the legislature to support rural schools through needed funding and a safety net for high-cost students.
- Clarity in the numbers – school leaders need to be able to verify estimates of funds retained by local leaders, those maintained in AEAs ($177 million in federal funding for child find and early access), and those that are carved off for and state oversight are traceable and tie out to our school accounting/revenues.
UEN is registered as undecided on the bill until we can verify changes written into amendments or new legislation in the House and Senate. Please let us know what member suggestions you might have to the bill to further improve outcomes for students with special needs and provide needed services for Iowa school districts. Also, see the Feb. 2 UEN Weekly Report for information about the Guidehouse Report on Special Education, NAEP data, and other concerns.
DE and State Board of Education Authority Over AEAs
A quick review of current Iowa Code section 273 shows how much authority the DE already has to approve or direct AEA programs and services. The Code section references the Director of the DE 14 times and the State Board of Education 72 times. Here are some examples:
- 273.2 (2) AEA public hearing about the purchase, lease or lease-purchase of property, approval of the AEA board and the State BOE. 273.14 Emergency Repairs: following a disaster, not required to competitively bid, but must be approved by the State BOE or its designee.
- 273.2 (5) AEA board may provide other educational programs and services as approved by the State BOE. (9) AEA board shall jointly develop a 3-year statewide strategic plan that supports goals adopted by the state BOE. AEAs provide the state BOE with annual updates on performance measures.
- 273.3 (5) Be authorized, subject to State BOE rules, to provide directly or by contract with public or private agencies for sped programs and services, media services and education program and services required by the local boards via contracts, including with out of-state public and private entities if compliant with state BOE rules.
- 273.3 (8) Be authorized, subject to the approval of the DE director, to enter into agreements for the joint use of personnel, buildings, facilities, supplies and equipment with school corporations deemed necessary to provide authorized programs and services.
- 273.3 (9) Be authorized to make application for, accept and expend state and federal funds available for programs providing education benefits approved by the Director of the DE, and cooperate with the DE in the manner provided in federal-state plans or department rules in the effectuation and administration of programs approved by the Director, or approved by other education agencies, which agencies have been approved as state educational authorities.
- 273.3 (12) Prepare an annual budget, including a process of public notice and public hearings, which the local AEA board approves. Sends to state BOE, which reviews and shall, before May 1, grant approval or return the budget without approval with comments of the state BOE included. AEA board must resubmit to final approval by May 15.
- (23) By Oct 1, submit to DE a) contracted salary including bonus wages and benefits, annuity payments, or any other benefit for the administrators of the AEA. b) contracted salary and benefits and any other expenses related to support for governmental affairs efforts, including expenditures for lobbyists and lobbying activities for the AEA.
- 273.4 (3) Submit program plans each year to the DE, for approval by the Director, to reflect the needs of the AEA for media services as provided in section 273.6.
- 273.5 (6) Submit to the DE special education instructional and support program plans and applications, subject to criteria listed in chapter 256B and this chapter, for approval by Feb. 15 of each year for the upcoming school year.
- 273.6 (2) Program plans submitted by the AEA to the DE for approval by the state BOE of media centers . . . including evidence that the media center fulfills the requirements of subsection 1 (which includes other materials and equipment deemed necessary by the DE).
- 273.9 (3) Special education support services shall not be funded until the program plans submitted by the special education directors of each AEA are modified as necessary and approved by the Director of the DE according to the criteria and limitations of Chapters 256B and 257. (4) the costs of media services shall not be funded until the program plans submitted by the administrators of each AEA are modified as necessary and approved by the Director of the DE according to the criteria of section 273.6. Requires the State BOE to adopt rules under Chapter 17A related to the approval of program plans.
- 273.10 Accreditation: Includes timeline submission of information required by the DE. Use of an accreditation team appointed by the DE director to conduct evaluation, including a site visit. Team must have access to AEAs program audit report filed with the DE. Team determines if standards have been met and makes recommendations to DE Director and state BOE. Team shall report strengths and weaknesses and shall advise of available resources and technical assistance to further enhance the strengths and improve areas of weakness. AEA may respond to the team’s report. State BOE determines if accreditation is met. Approval by the state BOE shall be based upon the recommendation of the Director of DE after study of the factual and evaluative evidence on record about each AEA program in terms of accreditation standards adopted by the state BOE. If AEA does not meet standards, DE Director, in cooperation with the AEA board, establishes a remediation plan to correct deficiencies, a deadline, and the plan is subject to approval of the state BOE. Team determines if deficiencies are corrected and reports to DE Director and State BOE, which reviews. If deficiencies are not corrected, the state BOE merges the AEA with another or contracts with another AEA of other public education institutions for program delivery.
- 273.1 Voluntary Reorganization: Reorg plan must be approved by the State BOE. 273.27 Dissolution: State board shall review the dissolution proposal and shall either grant approval for the proposal or return the proposal with recommendations, which may be resubmitted to the state BOE with modifications. State board approves it before it goes into effect July 1.
Committee Action House Education Committee
HSB 585 School Start Date by Education: allows the earliest school start date to be the Monday preceding August 23 if August 23 is a weekday. Passed by a vote of 21:1. Moves to the House Calendar. UEN supports. Awaiting a new bill number.
HF 2081 Ag Science: allows instruction in agricultural science classes to count as science instruction for offer and teach requirements. Approved by the House Education Committee and moves to the House Calendar. UEN supports.
HF 2197 Holocaust Education: requires schools, beginning July 1, 2024, to include education about the Holocaust, antisemitism, religious intolerance, personal responsibility, the leading role of the US armed forces, including African Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans, in defeating the 3rd Reich and liberating concentration camps and to provide PD to teachers, and requires DE to report for the year July 1, 2024 school district compliance with this requirement. Approved in the House Education Committee and moves to the House Calendar. UEN is opposed, not because we believe it is wrong to educate students about the Holocaust, but because we do not appreciate very specific content language in the Iowa Code.
HF 2377 Dyslexia Endorsement Grant: Appropriates $335,000 to DE for grants to help teachers obtain an advanced dyslexia specialist endorsement. Amended and passed 23-0. UEN supports.
HF 2278 Open Enrollment Transportation by Education: strikes requirements that a sending and receiving district agree to arrangements for transportation for an open-enrolled student. Amended to only allow a receiving district bus into the resident district by no more than 2 miles, limited to only pick up students whose resident is closer to the receiving district’s attendant center than their own, and limits to school districts below 2,000 students, unless a small district comes into the larger district to pick up students, than the larger district can do the same. Amended and passed, 20-2. Moves to the House Calendar. UEN registration is now undecided (although originally opposed, the amendments minimized the potential for harm to urban districts). Formerly HF 134.
HF 2389 Defining Sex: Defines sex as biological sex at birth, either male or female and requires the use of this definition on birth certificates, including one issued subsequent to a gender transition. Defines men, women, boys, girls, fathers and mothers. Includes protections for someone born with a medically verifiable sexual diagnosis. Deems that separate accommodations are not inherently unequal. Deems that laws which forbid sex discrimination shall be read to prohibit discrimination against men and women. Includes requirements for gathering sex information in various vital statistics. Passed 15-8 and moves to the House Calendar.
HF 2393 Student Dental Exam: Exempts dental exams for students from restrictions on physical exams, which would otherwise require written, advance parental permission, similar to exemptions for hearing and vision. Passed 23-0 and moves to the House Calendar. UEN supports.
HF 2396 School Pronouns: Prohibits schools and charter schools from disciplining employees, contractors or students for the use of a legal name or the failure to use a personal pronoun. Allows an employee who is terminated to sue for reinstatement and to seek civil damages in three times the amount of back pay. Passed 13-10 and moves to the House Calendar. UEN is registered opposed.
Committee Action Other House Committee
HF 2398 Public Officer Bond: Allows a public officer to purchase an insurance policy in lieu of posting a bond. Requires the policy to substantially meet the bond requirements. Allows for the reasonable expenses of the insurance policy be paid for by the government to the extent the expenses of the bond would be covered. Allows an officer who fails to post a bond to be suspended for failing to do so, and to be removed after a reasonable time if the bond is not posted. Passed by the House Local Government Committee, 21-0 and moves to the House Calendar. UEN supports.
Senate Education Committee
SF 2105 Operational Sharing: increases the maximum amount of additional weighting a school district may receive for sharing operational functions from 21 to 29 students. Unanimous approval. UEN is registered as undecided.
SF 2258 SSA: Establishes the state percent of growth and the categorical state percent of growth for the budget year beginning July 1, 2024, without a percentage (shell bill). Still contains the 30-day deadline, which is today. Senators discussed moving parts of the educational budget (teacher pay minimums, operational sharing, PK and others) as delaying the determination of the amount. UEN is registered opposed. Governor Reynolds’ budget recommended a 2.5% increase. The bill moves to the Senate Calendar.
HF 255 Alternative Pathways: specifies requirements for higher education programs that offer a Teacher Intern License, requiring pedagogy training and work under a teacher leader, including during co-teaching and planning time. Also creates a new Temporary Initial Alternative License, which would apply to completers with a bachelor’s degree who obtain a certificate from only one provider, the American College of Teacher Certification, which is an online program without student teaching or practicum experience. Although required to have a bachelor’s degree, the bill does not require the participant to have a BA in the content area of their license. Specifies the requirements for the program and that the BOEE treat this license equal to other teaching licenses. Moves to the Senate Calendar with a significant amendment which we will verify resolves our concerns. UEN is opposed to the bill.
Committee Action Other Senate Committees
SSB 3143 Governor’s Work-Based Learning: Provisions impacting schools: Division II defines work-based learning internships for high school credit and allows experiences outside of school hours, including summer. Division III allows a student-teacher experience requirement to be reduced to four weeks if the teacher meets certain criteria. This specifically includes apprentices in the Teacher and Para Educator Registered Apprenticeship Grant Program (TPRA) or other intern program with significant para or substitute teaching experience. Approved by the Committee 8:4 and moves to the Senate Calendar. UEN is registered in support of Division III.
SSB 3157 Governor’s Charter School, Open Enrollment, Facilities Right of Refusal and Start Date: Division 1 Per Pupil Funding: Sec. 1 increases the state cost per pupil to the current year amount, and sends categorical funds, including TSS, PD, and EICS, combined to about $2,000 per pupil to the charter school. (Does not specify TLC, since that is already included in open enrollment and charter funding per students. One of the theories of charter schools is that they can provide an education more efficiently and for less money than the public school system. The original charter school legislation sends approximately $3.9 million to a charter school for 500 students. This would be about a 25% increase, or an additional $1,000,000 cut, to a public school for every 500 charter school students. Sec. 2 is about open enrollment funding, having those same funds flow students who open enroll into another district.
This chart shows the variance in categorical funds per pupil. Although the State Cost Per Pupil, or SCPP, is the floor for regular program district cost, the other categorical funds do have district below the state cost per categorical. The range is based on different allocation formulas when the funds were grants, rather than categorical. UEN opposes the increase of funding for Charter Schools and has serious questions about the variance of per pupil categoricals related to open enrollment funding.
Division II Right of First Refusal for Charter Schools to Lease or Purchase Underutilized or Vacant Property. Removing the provisions of chapter 297.22 from any deal between a school district and a charter school removes 7 public hearings from processes designed to inform the public. UEN opposes this division. Rationale:
Other options: sell the property and use the proceeds for a new computer center at the high school, rather than raise property taxes, or turn a building into upscale housing like the old high school in Sioux City, or into a glass factory in NW Iowa that provides jobs and becomes taxable property, or a community center or a daycare center. Taxpayers might prefer a very old building to be demolished and a new facility built in the same place.
School boards have to consider the use of facilities over time, not just on a year-to-year basis. Some school buildings that are vacant or underutilized for a few years fill up again when age demographics change in neighborhoods, so school districts are often advised to keep them at the ready for those enrollment changes. After a decade, older homeowners move out of neighborhoods and the school is now full of students again.
The bill does not include a requirement that the charter school must meet market-driven price for either purchase or rent, and of course, with the right of first refusal and no public hearings or bid for public sale, the school district and taxpayers may not ever know. The process should restore transparency, require bids and allow the school board to have a reasonable say in any transaction that involves facilities built with taxpayer funding.
Division III: School Start Date flexibility to begin school the Tuesday following the end of the Iowa State Fair. UEN Supports this provision.
Division IV: Charter Governance: allows charter school board members to not be Iowa residents. UEN opposes this provision.
A subcommittee is scheduled for Monday, February 12, 2:00. UEN is registered opposed.
HSB 633 City and School Partisan Elections: This bill would require candidates for school board (and city elections) to participate in primaries, declaring a political party association. With so many school board elections having only one candidate, this really concerns many public education groups, who are lined up in registration against this bill. It was approved by the Subcommittee, 2:1, and moves forward to the full House Education Committee. UEN is registered opposed.
HSB 672 Governor’s Student Data System and Count Date: Requires DE to provide a new data information system for reporting and collecting information, at no cost to the school district for the first year. Allows DE to charge up to $12 per pupil for year 2 (both public and nonpublic schools pay the fee) and no limit on future year fee. Would allow districts to purchase a SIS module that would play well with the state data collection system. Also adds March 1 as a second enrollment count date and requires budget enrollment to be based on the average of the Oct. 1 and Mar. 1 enrollment counts. With new budget timelines, lots of concerns were expressed about this second date’s workability for schools, DE and DOM. The Subcommittee moved it forward 2:1 to the full House Education Committee, but had lots of questions. UEN is registered as undecided. See SSB 3156.
HF 2254 Chronic Absenteeism Financial Penalty: requires, if 20% or more of students are chronically absent, the DE withholds in the subsequent year the state cost per pupil for each student chronically absent. Defines chronically absent as missing 10% of days with no exceptions. Also requires the parent, school district, student if an emancipated minor, and county attorney to convene a meeting and put in place an attendance plan. Subcommittee moved it forward, 2-1, with an amendment to keep the conversation going about attendance. UEN is registered as undecided, hopeful that legislators will remove the penalty and focus efforts and working with parents to improve attendance.
HF 2299 Open Records: authorizes a government to provide an open record in a reasonable format rather than the requested format. Does not required the government to supply a record that is available on the internet site of the government and allows the government to send a notice of the availability on the internet. The Subcommittee moved the bill forward, 3-0, to the full House State Government Committee. UEN supports it.
HF 2329 DE Review of High School Graduation Requirements: requires DE to review HS graduation requirements, core content and core curriculum, and make policy recommendations. Requires the policy recommendations to include a plan to eliminate the use of core content standards and return to the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic and US History and Civics, to make Iowa’s education standards the best in the nation, in gather input from relevant stakeholders including parents and teachers, to increase the quality of the instructional curriculum, find innovative ways to streamline testing, identify opportunities to equip high school graduates with sufficient knowledge of civics and US History so they are capable of discharging the responsibilities associated with US Citizenship, a play to make Iowa the most literate state in the US using systematic and sequential approaches to teaching phonetic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and text comprehension, a plan to eliminate the teaching of critical race theory and social emotional learning. The DE is required to public a link to their website that allows public and interested stakeholders to provide comments related to the comprehensive review, including comments related to each graduation requirement, core content standard, and educational requirement by grade level. The Subcommittee recommended moving the bill forward to the full committee 2:0. UEN is undecided.
HF 2330 Social Studies Subjects and Regents: Includes a list of 14 items that must be taught in social studies in grades 1-6. The high school content includes a semester of civics with 9 specified items, United States History with 5 specific items, History of Western Civilization, Iowa History to be taught in grade 8, Economics which must be taught in grade 8, requires certain historical documents be incorporated throughout. And so much more. The Subcommittee recommended the bill move forward 2:0 to the full Education Committee. UEN is opposed. We value history and social studies, but oppose very prescriptive curriculum and content written into the Code of Iowa.
SSB 3158 Union Recertification Elections: Requires PERB to notify employer and union if the employer doesn’t provide the list of eligible members timely. If the employer still doesn’t provide the list, the union is automatically decertified in 5 days unless the employer submits the list or the union applies to district court to force the employer to submit the list. The Subcommittee approved the bill, 2:1, moving it forward to the full Senate Workforce Committee. UEN is registered opposed the bill.
SF 2119 Truant Drivers: prohibits DOT from giving driver’s licenses to students who are truant. Requires districts to report truant students to DOT. Does not distinguish age or grade level (for example, a truant third grader would also have to be reported and would be prevented from getting a driver’s license until age 18. UEN expressed concerns about equity and sensitivity for students from different cultural backgrounds and family circumstances. UEN is registered as undecided. The bill moved forward 2:1 to the full Senate Education Committee.
Advocacy Actions This Week: School Funding, AEA Overhaul Changes, Quality Preschool
Adequate School Funding: Contact legislators regarding SSA, the Governor’s recommendation of 2.5% falls short of inflation. The teacher salary investment in the Governor’s proposal is a really good start, but SSA has to keep pace or our staff and programs for students will be compromised. See the UEN Issue Brief for additional information. Now that the Senate Education Committee has a bill on the Senate Calendar, send senators a note or call to set SSA at least at the inflation rate, not lower than 3%. Additional Supports:
See the UEN website for an UEN Issue Brief providing education funding history, comparing total Iowa education expenditures per pupil, which most recently ranked our state as 35th in the nation, now spending more than $3,000 per student LESS than the national average, and including some talking points to help you advocate with your legislators. UEN’s Legislative Priority supports an SSA rate that at least matches the inflation rate schools are experiencing.
State Foundation Aid and Per Pupil Funding Increase: the Governor recommends a 2.5% increase in the state cost per pupil. The total state cost of State Foundation Aid is $3.730 billion for FY 2025, an increase of $62.3 million compared to estimated FY 2024. Increases the state cost per pupil from $7,635 to $7,826, which is $191 per student. The 2.5% proposed increase also applies to supplementary weightings (Preschool, Special Education, English-Language Learners or Concurrent Enrollment, for example), to categorical funds (TLC, PD, TSS and EICS, for example), and also applies to AEA per pupil funding. The transportation equity payments also increase by 2.5%, an increase of $759,000.
FY 2025 ISFIS New Authority Calculator allows users to set the SSA rate and calculate the impact for all districts for FY 2025 on your regular program (not including special education or other supplemental weightings or categoricals). Enter the SSA percentage increase and your Budget Enrollment and you can compare to the new money you’d receive if the SSA rate matched inflation (either 3.1% for CPI and 4% for Core Inflation) compared to the Governor’s Recommendation of 2.5%.
Governor’s AEA and Teacher Pay Bill: We believe that the House and Senate will each produce a bill of AEA changes and teacher pay soon. Keep the conversation going:
- UEN leaders are enthusiastic about considering changes to special education and AEAs that are thoughtful, provide adequate stakeholder input, and adequate time to make wise choices in transitioning to anything different. Chaotic transitions will interrupt the quality and quantity of services for students with disabilities.
- Concerns about state oversight have been shared by the Governor’s office. UEN leaders support local control for school districts. We also want to ensure that all students, including those in smaller or rural districts, have the resources they need to serve their students. Keep improving the bill.
- UEN supports big investments for the teacher pay provisions. We need to emphasize that our major concerns with HSB 542 are primarily related to the AEA provisions.
- Keep talking about this bill. We do not want to be surprised by a bill that appears later in session.
Quality Preschool and Other UEN Priorities: in every communication, find a way to mention Quality Preschool and Teacher and other Staff Shortages. SF 2075 Expanded Preschool is assigned to the Senate Education Committee (phases up to 1.0 weighting for students below 185% of the federal poverty level). Contact Senators to support it. Find Issue Briefs and other resources on the UEN Advocacy website to find talking points or other resources to share when you meet with policymakers.
Connecting with Legislators: To call and leave a message at the Statehouse during the legislative session, the House switchboard operator number is 515.281.3221 and the Senate switchboard operator number is 515.281.3371. You can ask if they are available or leave a message for them to call you back. You can also ask them what’s the best way to contact them during session. They may prefer email or text message or phone call based on their personal preferences.
Find biographical information about legislators gleaned from their election websites on the ISFIS site here: http://www.iowaschoolfinance.com/legislative_bios Learn about your new representatives and senators or find out something you don’t know about incumbents.
Find out who your legislators are through the interactive map or address search posted on the Legislative Website here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find
UEN Advocacy Resources: Check out the UEN Website at www.uen-ia.org to find Issue Briefs, UEN Weekly Update Legislative Reports and Videos, UEN Calls to Action when immediate advocacy action is required, testimony presented to the State Board of Education, the DE or any legislative committee or public hearing, and links to fiscal information that may inform your work. The latest legislative actions from the Statehouse will be posted at: www.uen-ia.org/blogs-list. See the 2024 UEN Advocacy Handbook, which is also available from the subscriber section of the UEN website.
Contact us with any questions, feedback or suggestions to better prepare your advocacy work:
UEN Executive Director/Legislative Analyst
Thanks to our UEN Corporate Sponsors:
Special thank you to your UEN Corporate Sponsors for their support of UEN programs and services. Find information about how these organizations may help your district on the Corporate Sponsor page of the UEN website at www.uen-ia.org/uen-sponsors.