Education Committee – Week 4, 2021


SF 129 – Rural physician loan repayment program 

SF 129 adds obstetrics and gynecology as an area of specialization that qualifies for loan repayment under the Rural Physicians’ Loan Repayment Program. Currently, a person can engage in less than full-time practice under the program if they apply to the College Student Aid Commission to amend their program agreement and the commission determines that exceptional circumstances exist. The bill eliminates the exceptional circumstances, thereby allowing the commission and the person to consent to amend the agreement. Under the bill, “less than full-time” means at least 70% of a 40-hour work week. Finally, the bill modifies the definition of “service commitment area” to include a larger area.
[1/28: 47-0 (Excused: Brown, Nunn; 1 vacancy)]

SF 130 – Temporary School Board Member Compensation Increase

SF 130 provides a one-year exception to the $6,000 annual limitation on compensation for a member of the school board. This is in response to COVID-19 staffing shortages and allows school board members to work for the school district they serve. The options for school board member employment are limited to this school year and only to these jobs: substitute licensed teacher, food service worker and school bus driver.
[1/28: 47-0 (Excused: Brown, Nunn; 1 vacancy)]

SF 159 – Vouchers, Charter Schools, Omnibus Education Bill

SF 159 is the Governor’s proposal for private school vouchers, charter schools, elimination of diversity plans, expanding uses of teacher salary funding, eliminating the 90-day athletic eligibility rules and various student data and tax credit measures.

The following are the main divisions of this bill:

  • Vouchers/ “Student Scholarships”: Students in all grades are eligible if attending a “school identified for comprehensive support and improvement under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act,” which are schools in lowest 5% of Title I schools. There are currently 34 schools on this list. The bill explicitly states that the state and local schools may not require a nonpublic school to modify its academic standards to receive payment from parents/guardians under this fund. 
  • Charter School Expansion: Allows a “founding group” to apply for a charter, independent of public-school agreement. A charter could be within an existing school, or convert an entire school to a charter. The bill exempts charters from most state statutes, rules and any local regulation or policy applicable to a public school, except for federal and state health and safety, laws prohibiting discrimination. The school district must pay to the charter school the total state cost per pupil, TLC and ELL weighting.
  • Open Enrollment: Eliminates the 90-day waiting period for athletic eligibility when a student open enrolls. The bill also expands open enrollment options for districts identified as in “significant need of improvement” and requires a receiving district to send school vehicles into a contiguous district. This provision was amended (see below).
  • Eliminates Local Voluntary Diversity Plans: Eliminates the ability of a school district with a voluntary diversity plan to deny an open enrollment request.
  • Student Data, Program Standards and Funding: Requires a new statewide system for student records. It allows the teacher salary supplement to be used for other things if salary obligations are met. It allows transfer of teacher leadership funds to the general fund if all obligations are met.
  • Education Tax Credits and Deductions: Doubles the maximum amount a taxpayer may deduct from their income taxes from $250 to $500. The bill increases the tuition and textbook tax credit to apply to homeschool expenses; doubles the amount of the tax credit; and doubles the amount of allowed expense.

An amendment was adopted on the floor that made the following changes:

  • Removes ability to use K-12 voucher for higher educational expenses.
  • Allows vouchers to be used for software necessary for courses, but limits use of private vouchers to a new computer every four years. 
  • Requires all cases of substantial misuse of vouchers to be referred to the Attorney General for collection or criminal investigation.
  • Clarifies that the compensation structure mentioned for charter schools is for staff and not for boards.
  • Makes the prohibition against voluntary diversity plans effective upon enactment.
  • Clarifies that the cost of the statewide information system is based on the actual cost of the system.
  • Strikes the division that would average certified enrollment counts and replaces it with a study committee.
  • Strikes the removal of the 90-day eligibility rule for high school athletics and replaces it with language that allows students to be immediately eligible if they meet the definition of “good cause” for open enrollment, or if the board of directors of the district of residence implements a decision that results in the discontinuance or suspension of varsity interscholastic sports activities. Retroactive to July 1, 2020.
  • Adds in two Department of Education bills on open enrollment (SSB 1074 and SSB 1075)
  • Strikes the April 15 deadline to keep “good cause” consistent for students any time during the school year.
  • Keeps current law for districts having to agree to transport students across district borders. Strikes the bill language that would allow one district to go into another district without their permission to transport students.
    [1/28: 26-21 (No: Democrats, Driscoll, Shipley, Sweeney; Excused: Brown, Nunn; 1 vacancy)]

SF 160  – Mandated In-Person School Requirement

SF 160 mandates all public and non-public schools provide a 100% in-person instruction option during the 2020-2021 school year. The mandate will begin no later than the second Monday following the effective date of the bill and ending June 20, 2021. This requirement is in effected unless explicitly waived in a proclamation by the Governor for an emergency health disaster related to COVID-19. The bill continues to allow schools to provide hybrid instruction, but most hybrid instruction plans won’t be logistically possible when schools offer a 100% in-person and a 100% online option. Schools must offer parents at least five days to decide if they will select the full-time in-person instruction option.

For the rest of this school year, schools may apply to the Department of Education to temporarily go 100% online for a two-week period. An amendment was adopted to change the considerations for an online waiver to include:

  • Number of teachers who are quarantining due to exposure to COVID
  • Scarcity of substitute teachers, food service workers and school bus drivers
  • Other factors or information
    [1/28: 29-18 (No: Democrats; Excused: Brown, Nunn; 1 vacancy)]


SCR 1 – Resolution on student loan debt

SCR 1 is a resolution urging Congress to enact legislation to limit the interest rates collected or imposed by the U.S.  Department of Education on certain federal college student loans.
[2/3: 15-0]

SF 73 – Medicaid reimbursement process by receiving school district 

SF 73 is a Department of Education technical correction bill that requires school districts to work together to make sure the sending district for a student with an Individualized Education Program receives the appropriate information back from the receiving district to facilitate Medicaid reimbursements.
[2/3: 15-0]

SF 90 – Allows students to repeat last year school year if requested by parent/guardian

SF 90 allows a parent to override a school’s recommendation on holding a student back a year for the 2021-2022 school year. Supporters say that some students “missed” a lot this year and deserve to repeat it, if necessary. Currently, schools are the final decisionmakers on grade placement for students and make those decisions based off of educational assessment metrics and in consultation with parents.
[2/3: 10-5 (party-line)]

SF 117 – School Resource Officers paid for by instruction support levy

SF 117 authorizes an additional annual amount of funding under the instructional support levy for school resource officer expenses. The amount raised is limited to an amount not exceeding 10% of the total of regular program district cost.

  • Participation in the instructional support (ISL) levy can be for up to 10 years, approved by school board.
  • The bill defines “school resource officer expenses” to mean the cost to provide or employ one school resource officer, which is someone that is a career law enforcement officer, with sworn authority, deployed in community-oriented policing, and assigned by the employing police department or agency to work in collaboration with schools and community-based organizations to address crime and disorder problems.
  • If a school already has approved their ISL, the school district levy more than the current law maximum amount applies for school resource officer expenses only.
  • The school board must specify how much of its levy/property tax is going to fund a school resource officer.
    [2/3: 15-0]

SSB 1069 – Authorizes the College Student Aid Commission to organize a nonprofit corporation

SSB 1069 would create a nonprofit organization, which is a mechanism to receive tax-deductible donations from individuals and organizations. This will allow the College Student Aid Commission to seek grant funding from grantors who award only to entities with a 501(c)(3) status, such as the Bradley Foundation, Hearst Foundation, Kresge Foundation and the Spencer Foundation. It will ensure the agency’s successful fundraising while also establishing appropriate restraints to keep it from overstepping its status and function as an entity of the state. Iowa College Aid’s ability to secure grants and receive donations would help the agency to continue its essential functions without placing a financial burden on the state.
[2/3: 15-0]

SSB 1077 – Proficiency requirements for concurrent instruction

SSB 1077 requires a student to have demonstrated proficiency in reading, math and science as evidenced by achievement scores on the latest administration of the statewide assessment. If a student is not proficient in one or more of the content areas, they can demonstrate proficiency through measures of college readiness jointly agreed upon by the school board and the postsecondary institution, and by other qualifying measures that may be established by the local school boards. The bill also establishes provisions for students who are receiving competent private instruction.
[2/3: 15-0]

SSB 1081 – AEA expanded assistance to programs for at-risk children

SSB 1081 allows area education agencies (AEAs) to provide technical assistance to Shared Visions grantees that are not school districts. Currently, they are limited to serving only districts. This expands AEA ability to support quality programming and updates Code language.
[2/3: 15-0]