Legislative Update 1/7

The 2015 legislative session starts in five days and the DE has prefiled two more proposed bills.

The first would end the DE’s involvement in oversight of child care programs and before and after school programs operated or contracted by school districts or accredited nonpublic schools. This bill would leave DHS as the sole state agency responsible for licensing these programs.

The second is a technical corrections and efficiencies bill. This bill would make changes to the program for attending school out of the state [282.8](for Iowa students for whom schools across the state line are closer than the public school of residence), whole grade sharing agreements [282.10], open enrollment [282.18], and budget adjustment [257.14].

This bill would repeal the teacher exchange program [256.7(15), 279.55-279.57], pilot projects to improve instructional programs [256.19], and the requirement that local school boards, if they participate in local, regional, and national organizations, annually report to the local community and the DE the amount the board pays in annual dues, the amount of fees paid and revenue or dividend payments received for services the board receives from the organization, and the products or services the school district received inclusive with membership in the organization [279.38A].

The bill would also strike the following duties of the director of the DE: to print in book form all school laws every four years [256.9(26)] and distribute annually any amendments or changes in the school laws as prescribed in subsection 26 [256.9(27)]; to develop a model written publications code including reasonable provisions for the regulation of the time, place, and manner of student expression [256.9(36)]; to administer the teacher exchange program [256.9(40)]; to submit an annual report to the general assembly by January 1 regarding activities, findings, and student progress under the Iowa Core Curriculum [256.9(54)] (question: is this the annual condition of education report?); and, to report to the general assembly annually about the necessity of waiving any statutory obligations for school districts due to a disaster [256.9(59)].

The bill would also strike the requirement for the DE to annually report statewide progress on student achievement scores in mathematics and reading at the fourth and eighth grade levels on a district-by-district basis, evaluator training program, and changes and improvements in evaluation of teachers under the Iowa teaching standards [284.12]. 284.12 would be further amended to change the requirement for the DE, in developing administrative rules for consideration by the state board, to consult with specified persons to instead consult with stakeholders who might reasonably be affected by the proposed rule.

It might be more efficient to remove reporting requirements, but that doesn’t seem to be a move towards maintaining or improving government transparency. It makes sense to end requirements to provide print copies if the DE will still be required to make electronic copies of the same materials available. And, if the reporting requirement results in annual reports that there is nothing to report (maybe there aren’t many disasters that require waivers, for example) or the reported information is also reported in another required report, it might make sense to repeal the reporting requirement. But if these changes are meant to allow the DE and local school boards to operate with less transparency, I am not in favor of that. If anyone better understands these changes, please explain in a comment.

According to my Twitter feed, anti-bullying legislation and school start dates, plus supplemental state aid are the big education issues. We will see if assessment and broadband upgrades for schools rate a mention in Governor Branstad’s Condition of the State address on Tuesday, January 13 at 10:00 am.

Also learned on Twitter today: