The following bills were passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.
SF 166 – FY18 regular school aid
SF 238 – Definition of a school employee
SF 240 – Statewide assessments
SF 274 – Computer science standards
HF 217 – Reporting requirements
HF 472 – Financial aid for teachers
HF 473 – Expands high school equivalency
HF 564 – Flexibility in use of school funding
HF 565 – School flexibility accounts
HF 573 – Home Rule for school governance
SF 166 sets the FY18 regular school aid/state supplemental aid/allowable growth and the FY18 categorical allowable growth for schools at 1.11 percent. It establishes a total cost per pupil of $6,664, an increase of $73. The 1.11 percent increase for FY18 will cost the state $3.199 billion, an increase of $108.9 million over FY17.
The FY18 allowable growth rate for each of the State Categorical Supplements (Teacher Leadership & Compensation, Teacher Salary Supplement, Professional Development and Early Intervention) totals $520.53 million, an increase of $59.68 million over FY17. Funding includes:
- Teacher Salary Supplement at $295.14 million, an increase of $4.78 million.
- Professional Development Supplement at $33.5 million, an increase of $0.54 million.
- Early Intervention Supplement (class size) at $34.5 million, an increase of $ .56 million.
- Teacher Leadership & Compensation at $157.4 million, an increase of $53.99 million. This is the last year of a three-year phase-in to the school finance formula.
The Legislature decides if it will pay for the increment increase in property taxes associated with an increase in the percentage growth for schools. The total funding for this effort is $46.7 million, an increase of $5.3 million over last year ($83 dollars per student for FY18).
Two major policy updates include:
- Changing the timeframe under which the Legislature will set basic school funding. Previously, the Legislature had to act within 30 days of the Governor’s proposal in the year before the base year of the Governor’s budget. This requirement is now moved to February 1 prior to the start of the school year. Local schools will no longer get 18 months’ notice to prepare their budgets.
- Removing the single-subject requirement for school funding legislation. This decreases the importance of the single subject and potentially allows one priority to be traded for another in legislative deal-making.
[2/2: 29-21, party-line (D. Johnson voting “no” with Democrats)]
SF 238 expands the definition of “school employee” for the criminal offense of sexual exploitation by a school employee to include a person who holds a license, certificate, authorization or statement of recognition by the Board of Educational Examiners. Criminal penalties apply only to an employee who has direct supervisory authority over a student. Penalties do not apply if the employee has a relationship with a student unless the employee is licensed, certified or authorized by the Board of Educational Examiners. The new law ensures all school employees, regardless of licensure status, are subject to the same standard for sexual exploitation of a student.
[3/7: 49-0 (Bisignano excused)]
SF 240 strikes the State Board of Education’s decision to move forward with Smarter Balance, a statewide assessment that is aligned to the Iowa Core. Previous law required the State Board of Education to set core academic indicators in math and reading for grades four, eight and 11, and for science in grades eight and 11. It is no longer required that all students enrolled in grades three through 11 take an assessment of their progress on the core academic indicators.
The new law requires the Department of Education to issue a new request for proposals for the selection of a statewide assessment of student progress to be administered in the school year beginning July 1, 2018. The assessment must measure individual student growth and be aligned to the Iowa Core for grades three through eight, and at least one high school grade. The assessment must be capable of measuring student performance in English language arts, math and science. The assessment must be available in paper-and-pencil and computer-based formats. Potential vendors or providers may collaborate to meet the requirements. The State Board of Education can accept the best proposal and write rules to implement the proposal without further legislative approval.
The new law makes a significant change to accredited private schools and assessments. Previously, all accredited private schools had to develop and file with the Department of Education a comprehensive school improvement plan that included assessing educational needs and establishing local education standards and student achievement levels. Accredited private schools were required to give the same annual statewide assessment as public schools. Now, all accredited private schools are exempt from the statewide annual testing requirement.
[4/10: 39-9 (Bisignano, Danielson, Dotzler, Hart, Hogg, Jochum, D. Johnson, Mathis, Petersen “no”; Allen, Taylor excused)
SF 274 requires the Department of Education (DE) to establish computer science standards for elementary, middle and high school grades. The Board of Educational Examiners must establish an endorsement in computer science for teachers and create a Computer Science Professional Development Incentive Fund, from which school districts and teachers may be reimbursed for professional development. A computer science work group will identify and recommend computer science-related guidelines and potential policies for schools. The work group must submit a report to the Governor, the DE and the Legislature by November 1.
[3/7: 49-0 (Bisignano excused)]
HF 217 adds to the list of reporting requirements that school boards, AEAs and superintendents must make to the Board of Education Examiners. Under the new law, these individuals must report all licensed, authorized or certified employees if disciplinary action is taken for being on school premises or at a school-sponsored activity involving students while under the influence of, possessing, using or consuming illegals drugs, unauthorized drugs or alcohol.
[3/7: 49-0 (Bisignano excused)]
HF 472 clarifies that it is the Legislature’s intent to prevent someone from receiving assistance from the Teach Iowa Scholar Program and the Teacher Shortage Loan Forgiveness Program at the same time. Eight teachers already receiving benefits from both programs are grandfathered in. Otherwise, the new law is effective immediately.
HF 473 expands the ways in which Iowa can issue high school equivalency diplomas (HSED). The Iowa Department of Education issues a diploma when an applicant passes minimum standards in core areas of reading, language arts, literacy, math, science and social studies. Previously, an applicant had to submit an application to a testing center. Now, an applicant may go to a testing center or to a high school equivalency program. One of these pathways is required to show a student’s competence in core areas. The Department of Education must prescribe assessments and resources. This will allow the State Board of Education to expand how a student/applicant may show competence in an area, beyond taking a test. Other pathways will include a test battery, credit-based measures, and attainment of other academic credentials of equivalent or greater rigor.
[4/10: 48-0 (Allen, Taylor excused)]
HF 564 provides additional flexibility for carry forward ending balances in schools’ categorical funds. When new programs are created, certain guidelines are attached to the funding schools receive, dictating how they can spend the money. This law makes changes to a number of funds — including professional development funding, at-risk and dropout funding, preschool funding — by adding additional allowable expenses meant to help further the goals of the program. It also offers flexibility regarding rules and guidelines handed down from the Department of Education.
[4/12: 49-0 (Bertrand excused)]
HF 565 sets up a school district Flexibility Fund. Because of the parameters around certain program funding, some school districts are unable to fully use their resources and end up accumulating unused funds. More than 74 sources of funding had leftover money totaling more than $146 million in FY15 ($17.5 million more than FY14). The new law creates a “Flexibility Fund” to collect some of these dollars to be used in a broader fashion, while keeping with the intent of the original source of the funds. This will give districts more spending authority, help them access unused dollars, and provide more high-quality programming and a stronger educational environment overall.
An allocation from the Flexibility Fund must be approved by the school board and must be included in the budget certified by local budget law (chapter 24). Before approving an allocation, the school board must hold a public hearing, including proper public notice of the original purpose of the funds, the proposed use of the funds, the amount of the proposed allocation and the fiscal year in which the transfer occurs.
The Department of Education must engage in a manner that gives deference to the decisions of a school district and minimizes intrusion into their decision making, such as when they are carrying out agency action or decisions related to categorical funding. The Flexibility Fund will be an account under the General Fund for accounting purposes.
[4/12: 49-0 (Bertrand excused)]
HF 573 changes Iowa’s school governance from Dillon’s Rule to Home Rule. Iowa’s education system has operated under Dillon’s Rule, which grants powers to school districts that are expressly allowed by statute. It tells school districts what they can do. Judge Forest Dillon, the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court expounded this famous rule, which was quickly adopted by state supreme courts around the nation.
Under “Home Rule,” school districts can adopt policies that they want, unless expressly forbidden by statute. County Home Rule was added to the Iowa Constitution in 1978 under Article III, amendment 39.
A new code section directs school boards to have Home Rule for certain programs. Some say certain code sections are in conflict with other sections that require school boards to perform certain duties or functions to facilitate the education of Iowa’s PreK-12 students. Now that the bill is law, the courts may have to decide how to interpret its implementation. School districts must “operate, control and supervise schools” within their boundaries, and allow them to “exercise any implied power, not inconsistent with the laws and the administrative rules related to the operation, control and supervision of those public schools.” School Boards do not have power to levy taxes unless expressly authorized by the Legislature.
There new law also:
- Prohibits a school district from raising fees or taxes unless the Legislature expressly allows it.
- Says a school district cannot enforce a policy that would interfere with local, state or federal law.
- Prohibits a school district from overriding any power or authority of a city or county.
[4/20: 34-16 (Allen, Bowman, Hart, Kinney voting “yes” with Republicans)]