Education Committee Report – Week 8, 2017

SF 349 – Iowa Tuition Grant cap amount removal
SF 150 – Extends ELL from 5 to 7 Years
SSB 1114 – Children’s residential facilities rewrite
SSB 1124 – District cost per pupil and transportation cost per pupil equity
SSB 1137 – Education omnibus bill



SF 349 removes the $6,000 cap on the Iowa Tuition Grant (ITG), which is awarded to qualifying students attending an Iowa private college or university. The ITG has not yet reached an appropriation amount that would allow an award of more than $6,000. However, if the Legislature appropriated the Governor’s proposed 2 percent increase for the Iowa Tuition Grant, the awards could go over that amount next year. Currently, the amount of an ITG is limited to the lesser of the student’s financial need, $6,000 (the cap), or the total tuition and mandatory fees for two semesters at the Regents universities. The bill clarifies that an ITG could be no more than a student’s financial need, or the average tuition and fees for a Regents university for the same period.
[3/1: 50-0]



SF 150 extends English Language Learning (ELL) for the supplementary weighting for limited English-proficient students. The current amount of the supplementary weighting for ELL students is 0.22 per student. The weighting is provided for those students for five years. This bill extends ELL eligibility to up to seven years. The bill’s fiscal impact isn’t felt for five years (in 2023). Estimated fiscal cost based on a previous year’s proposal shows $4.3 million for year six and $5 million for year seven. Research shows that it takes five years to learn conversational English, but seven years for academic-level English comprehension and reading.
[3/1: short form]


SSB 1114 provides various opt outs for any “bona fide religious institutions” to which the definition of “children’s residential facility” applies in regards to health, safety, inspections and educational standards. Under the bill, any entity that would otherwise qualify it as a children’s residential facility is exempt from most of the requirements currently in Code for like facilities, if it claims it’s a “bona fide religious institution.”

After some serious child-safety concerns were raised in subcommittee, the Republican majority proposed a committee amendment to strike the bill and replace it with language providing that currently existing children’s residential facilities operated by a “bona fide religious institution” are exempt from the requirements of 282.34 subsection (1), which will exempt them from having to contract with a public school, accredited non-public school or become an accredited non-public school for the purpose of providing education to students. The amendment limits the exemption to any “religious facility” that is in existence right now. Another concern is that “bona fide religious institutions” are not defined anywhere.
[3/1: 9-5, party-line (Hart excused)]


SSB 1124 works to equalize the state cost per pupil and transportation inequity costs in the school aid formula because a student’s zip code should not determine the amount of spending they receive.

First, the bill addresses the district cost per pupil disparity that stems from the 1970s, when the state adopted its school aid formula to take some of the burden off local property taxes. In doing so, lawmakers set a single state cost per pupil, based on enrollment and expenditures. But some school districts were spending more per pupil, and those districts were allowed to continue. The formula defined a state cost per pupil and brought all districts spending less than that amount up to the cost. This year, the state cost per pupil is $6,591. Half of all school districts are limited to this amount per pupil. The other 178 districts have a cost ranging from $6,592 to $6,766 per pupil, or $1 to $175 more per student. This extra amount is funded with property taxes. The bill makes these following changes to the state cost per pupil inequities:

  • Adds to the statewide cost per pupil after the annual calculation of Supplemental State Aid (SSA) to close the gap between the highest district costs per pupil and the statewide cost per pupil. The increase will be phased in over 10 years beginning in FY18:
    • In FY18, $5 would be added
    • In FY19, an additional $10 would be added (totaling $15)
    • In FY20 to FY27, an additional $20 would be added annually (totaling $175) and eliminating the difference between the highest district costs per pupil and the statewide cost per pupil
  • During implementation, school districts below the newly established statewide cost per pupil would receive additional funding under the current formula ($1 of property taxes for every $7 of state aid).
  • During implementation, school districts above the newly established statewide cost per pupil would receive state aid to supplant property tax dollars under the current formula (for every $8 of increase in the statewide cost per pupil, these districts would supplant $7 property tax dollars with state aid dollars).
  • At full implementation, all school districts in the state would have a district cost per pupil equal to the statewide cost per pupil. While there is no fiscal note yet, preliminary estimates show at full implementation this provision should cost approximately $86 million.

Second, the bill addresses transportation costs. Right now transportation costs can compete with educational program costs as both are paid from a school’s general fund. There is a large difference in the transportation costs per student among school districts, due primarily to student density and distance factors. Transportation costs per pupil enrolled range from a low of $30 to a high of $1,150. The transportation equity portion of the bill includes the following:

  • Creates supplementary weighting to offset the cost of transportation per pupil to help equalize the amount of per pupil funding each district is able to spend in the classroom versus just getting kids to school.
  • The supplementary weighting will be phased in equally over 10 years beginning in FY18 and will be calculated using these factors:
    • The three-year average of costs incurred for the transportation of students as required under Chapter 285, excluding those paid from PPEL and SAVE, at a 90 percent factoring.
    • The district’s budget enrollment at a 5 percent factoring.
    • The district’s route miles at a 5 percent factoring.
  • Requires that funding received for the transportation supplementary weighting can only be used for transportation costs incurred in providing mandatory transportation.
  • While there is no fiscal note yet, preliminary estimates show at full implementation this provision should cost approximately $125 million.

A committee amendment was offered and passed with full committee support to make various technical and drafting changes to the bill.
[3/1: 14-0 (Hart excused)]


SSB 1137 reverses numerous education initiatives over the last decade.

Division I – Online Education: 

  • Strikes limitations on online schools, including:
    • Which schools may have online learning (completely opens it up to anyone)
    • Enrollment caps
    • Specific requirements for posting student performance
    • Surveying students (this was a suggested best practice from national online school advocacy groups)
  • Removes language regarding the Iowa Learning Online Initiative.
  • Strikes the requirement that Iowa Learning Online teachers be licensed under Chapter 272 and have completed an online specific professional development.
  • Allows the Department of Education to waive “offer and teach” requirements and replace them with online coursework if the school cannot employ a licensed teacher or if fewer than 10 students typically register for the class.
  • Specifically authorizes schools to offer online education.

A committee amendment made these changes: Requires the use of licensed teachers at Iowa Learning Online and adds language that requires online programs to be aligned with the Iowa Core and language that allows school districts to develop their own online programing (so they don’t have to contract with a provider).


Division II – CTE and Concurrent Enrollment: Allows courses offered through concurrent enrollment may supplant up to two courses of the required four CTE courses for the purposes of receiving CTE funding.


Division III – Health Screenings: 

  • Repeals the requirement for parents to provide proof of a dental screening to schools.
  • Repeals the requirement for parents to provide proof of a vision screening to schools.
  • Repeals the authorization for school districts to offer dental clinics.
  • Repeals the requirement for school districts to provide a student vision card and the language for school districts to encourage eye exams.

A committee amendment made these changes:  Keeps permissive language allowing dental and vision clinics, but eliminates the requirements for schools to track paperwork.


Division IV – AEA Task Force: 

  • Creates a task force to review the essential functions of Area Education Agencies (AEAs) and requires the task force to rank AEA functions in priority order.
  • The task force will be compromised of:
    • 4 members from the Department of Education
    • 3 members from School Administrators of Iowa
    • 3 members from AEAs
    • 3 members from Professional Educators of Iowa
    • 3 members from Iowa Association of School Boards
  • Task force members are to be appointed to make up small, medium, and large schools and urban and rural schools.

A committee amendment made these changes: Adds 3 members appointed by ISEA and 3 members appointed by the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education to the AEA task force.


Division V – Open Enrollment Extracurricular Fees

  • Allows students open enrolled for the purpose of receiving online education to participate in extracurricular activities in their district of residence.
  • Allows the district of residence to deduct an extracurricular fee equal to the lesser of the actual cost of participation or 15 percent of the state cost per pupil for online students who are open enrolled to another district for the purposes of online education.

A committee amendment made these changes:

  • Caps the total activity fee at 15 percent of the state cost per pupil, regardless of the number of activities, and requires proration of costs.
  • Provides that both schools have jurisdiction on imposing relevant policies (e.g., eligibility, code of conduct, etc.).
  • Includes co-curricular activities (e.g., marching band, show choir, etc.)


Division VI – Private School Regulation Exemption: Says that all non-public schools that are independently accredited are not subject to Department of Education rules unless they are to comply with statutory health and safety requirements.


Division VII – Year-Round Schools:  A committee amendment strikes the division.


Division VIII – Biliteracy Seal:

  • Requires the Department of Education to develop a seal of biliteracy program to recognize students who demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language.
  • The program is voluntary on behalf of schools and students.
  • Students who successfully complete the requirements of the program will receive a sticker to affix to their high school diploma, signifying their successful completion.

A committee amendment made these changes:  

  • Strikes “foreign language” and inserts “two or more world languages, one of which must be English.”
  • Allows “other authorized endorsements” so that this isn’t restricted to a sticker.


Division IX – Limitation on Department of Education: This division specifically states that interpretations and guidance issued by the Department of Education are not legally binding. It says that binding regulations are limited to  rules, declaratory orders, documents required by federal law or court, or documents issued in the course of judicial proceedings. A committee amendment clarifies that the director of the Department of Education may continue interpreting rules.
[3/1: 9-5, party-line (Hart excused)]