Education Committee – Week 12, 2021


SCR 4 – Resolution on student loan debt

SCR 4 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.
[3/29: Voice Vote]

SF 547 – Modification to the Teach Iowa Scholar program

SF 547 modifies the Teach Iowa Scholar (TIS) program by setting priority funding for applicants. It raises the annual grant limitation from $4,000 to $7,500 and the total grant limitation over a five-year period from $20,000 to $37,500. Currently, priority is given to residents of Iowa. This is the new priority funding order:

  1. Applicants seeking renewal of their grant awards.
  2. Applicants who are most recent graduates of approved practitioner preparation programs.
  3. Applicants who are minority persons and residents of Iowa.

TIS currently provides qualified Iowa teachers with awards of up to $4,000 a year, for a maximum of five years, for teaching in Iowa schools in designated shortage areas. Qualified teachers are those teaching in designated shortage areas who meet all of the eligibility criteria. The bill adds districts with more than 25% minority student populations to the eligibility list of high-need areas.[3/29: 45-0 (Excused: Driscoll, Kraayenbrink, Nunn, Sweeney, Hogg)]


HF 318 – Preschool Allowed for 5-Year Olds

HF 318 changes the age for Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program from four-year-olds to “young children,” which includes students who turn five between March 15 and September 15. This is a three-year pilot program. Schools that elect to use this program may allow four-year-olds to re-take preschool as a young five-year-old if there is sufficient space. Eligible five-year-old children may attend a school district’s local preschool program. In addition to other preschool program data, school districts must include the number and birthdates of pupils enrolled in kindergarten and transitional kindergarten for more than one year, as well as if the pupil was previously enrolled in preschool. Each program provides consultation services for parents or guardians in assessing if the child is ready to enroll in kindergarten or preschool. Estimated minimum annual fiscal impact is $490,000 from FY24 to FY26.[3/30: 13-0 (Excused: Kraayenbrink, Sweeney)]

HF 602 – Transfers of School General Fund to the Student Activity Fund

HF 602 – For the school budget year beginning July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022, a school board may transfer money from their general fund to the student activity fund for cocurricular or extracurricular activities. Some of these funds failed to meet the financial needs of the activity due to the impact of COVID-19. This bill adds that money in the student activity fund can be used to support extracurricular programs.
[3/30: 13-0 (Excused: Kraayenbrink, Sweeney)]

HF 644 – College Student Aid Technical Corrections bill 

HF 644 adds that money in a postsecondary education fund may be used to procure and store school records to establish claims against a school that fails to perform contracts and agreements, pay institutional charges, support transitional activities, pay private education loan debt, and reimburse Iowans who were enrolled and attended schools. It provides that a continuous corporate surety bond may be for $50,000 or sum equivalent to 10% of total annual tuition, whichever is less.

Colleges and universities authorized by a foreign country, private business schools accredited by U.S. Department of Education and schools of nursing from outside of Iowa are not exempt from registering with the commission and complying with provisions for advertising and selling educational courses, evidence of financial responsibility or contracts. It lays out tuition refund policies and requirements for proprietary postsecondary schools, requires information relating to proprietary schools to be public record and adds disclosure requirements for proprietary schools. This bill applies to public colleges and universities.
[3/30: 13-0 (Excused: Kraayenbrink, Sweeney)]

HF 744 – First Amendment Training at Regents and Public K12 Schools

HF 744 requires each public institution of higher education to protect the First Amendment rights of the institution’s students, staff and faculty, and to establish and publicize policies that prohibit intuitional restrictions and penalties based on protected speech to the fullest extent required by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This requirement specifically includes political speech. A public institution of higher education is prohibited from retaliating against a member of the campus community that files a complaint for a violation of this requirement.

If a faculty member knowingly and intentionally restricts the protected speech or otherwise penalizes a student according to the above requirements the faculty member is subject to discipline by the institution through the normal disciplinary process, and such discipline may include termination depending on the totality of the facts. If the faculty member is licensed, Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE) must conduct a hearing, and the faculty member may be subject to disciplinary action by the board.

The bill requires the state Board of Regents to develop materials, programs and procedures to ensure that the discipline, instruction or administration of the campus, as well as student organizations, understand the policies, regulations and duties regarding free expression on campus. This includes, but is not limited to, presidents, vice‐presidents, deans, department directors, administrators, campus police officers, residence life officials, faculty and members of student government organizations. Each Regents institution must provide training on free speech under the First Amendment to all students, faculty and staff on an annual basis. Elected officials and staff must be permitted to attend.

Each school district in the state must protect the intellectual freedom of the school district’s students and practitioners. The districts must establish and publicize policies to protect students and faculty from discrimination based on speech. A person cannot retaliate against anyone who files a complaint for a violation of free speech policies.

The Education Committee adopted an amendment that adds language related to student organizations, free-speech training and protections for newspaper advisers from the original bill (SF 478). The amendment added these provisions:

HF 770 – License Renewal Requirement, Individualized PD

HF 770 requires half of the units needed for licensure renewal by the BOEE to be earned by successfully completing an individualized professional development plan as verified by the supervising licensed evaluator, or by successfully completing professional development courses or programs offered by a professional development program licensed by the board, or by a practitioner preparation institution or area education agency approved by the state board of education.
[3/30: 13-0 (Excused: Kraayenbrink, Sweeney)]

HF 793 – PE exemption for JROTC

HF 793 allows a student enrolled in JROTC to be exempt from the requirement to participate in physical education (PE). A student must receive one-eighth unit of PE credit for each semester they enroll in and complete JRTOC.
[3/30: 13-0 (Excused: Kraayenbrink, Sweeney)]

HF 802 – Diversity Training- prohibition of certain “divisive concepts”

HF 802 prohibits all governmental entities, Judicial Branch, political subdivisions, Regents, public K12 schools or contractors they hire, and any unit of another state government, or association or organization whose membership consists of primarily employees of any of the above, from teaching, advocating, acting upon or promoting divisive concepts in any mandatory staff or student training. The bill does specifically allow a trainer to respond to questions regarding divisive concepts raised during a training. Institution diversity and inclusion efforts must discourage employees and students from discriminating based on color, race, ethnicity, sex, political ideology or any other characteristic protected under the Federal Civil Rights Act and applicable state law. The bill cannot be construed to inhibit the First Amendment rights of students or faculty, undermine an institution’s duty to protect intellectual freedom and free expression, or infringe on the intellectual vitality of students or faculty.

Public School Districts – adds curriculum: Requires the school district to ensure that any curriculum or mandatory staff or student training does not teach, advocate, act upon or promote divisive concepts. The bill does specifically allow an employee or contractor who teaches curriculum or provides mandatory training to respond to questions regarding divisive concepts raised during a training.

“Divisive Concepts” include:

Student Newspaper Advisor (added to HF 744, as well): Prohibits a school employee or official from being dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned, transferred, subject to termination or nonrenewal of a contract or otherwise retaliated against for acting to protect a student for engaging in conduct authorized under this section or refusing to infringe on a student’s conduct that is protected by this section, the U.S. Constitution or the Iowa Constitution.
[3/30: 8-5 (No: Democrats; Excused: Kraayenbrink, Sweeney)]