SF 546 — Home school instruction and driver’s education modifications
SF 546 relates to private instruction by parents, guardians and legal custodians, and to driver education provided by a teaching parent. Private instruction, sometimes referred to as homeschooling, can be provided in multiple ways in the State of Iowa. Students in private instruction can be supported by a certified teacher, through a school district, without a certified teacher, or through a nonaccredited school. Different opportunities and requirements apply depending on what method of private instruction is used for the student.
Under the bill, “competent private instruction” (teacher-lead) and “private instruction” (parent-lead)are mergedand will now be considered “private instruction.” While this change does not substantively expand home schooling or decrease reporting requirements for home schoolers, it also does not improve the current policy of notification that many legislators have found concerning.The bill also makes technical changes regarding the offering of online learning platform to homeschool students and changes the reporting date for annual evaluation of a homeschool students.
Drivers Education: The bill makes changes to homeschool parent driver’s education requirements. The bill eliminates actual classroom hours and minutes required for an approved driver-education course required for driver education provided by a teaching parent. The bill decreases certain time requirements for homeschool students, which will now be different from other students going through driver’s education. Currently, an approved course administered by a teaching parent must consist of 30 hours of classroom time, which the bill eliminates. Currently, 40 hours of street or highway driving are required, of which four hours must be after sunset. The bill reduces that to 30 hours, of which three hours must be after sunset. The bill also eliminates the four hours required for substance abuse and railroad crossing safety (now just “instruction”), and adds that instruction must be provided on sharing the road with pedestrians.
- Allows any parent to teach their child of compulsory attendance age using parent-taught driver education.
- Adds pedestrian awareness instruction to driver education courses.
- Eliminates certain time requirements for parent-taught driver education and reduces the number of hours of required driving time.
- Aligns documentation for parent-taught driver education course completion and certification with Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements.
Fiscal Impact: Senate File 546 as amended is expected to increase FTE costs to the DOT Motor Vehicle Division by an estimated $440,000.
[4/28: 33-15 (Yes: Republicans, Boulton, Bisignano, Kinney; Excused: Nunn, Schultz)]
HF 602 – Transfers of School General Fund to the Student Activity Fund
HF 602 allows, for school budget years beginning July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022, for a school board to transfer money from their General Fund to the Student Activity Fund for cocurricular or extracurricular activities. Some of these activities failed to meet the financial needs of the activity due to COVID-19. This bill adds that money in the Student Activity Fund can be used to support extracurricular programs.
[4/28: 48-0 (Excused: Nunn, Schultz)]
HF 802 – Diversity Training and Curriculum Prohibitions
HF 802 prohibits race and sex stereotyping training and training on certain “divisive concepts” in university trainings, K12 trainings, and as amended on the House Floor, in trainings by government entities, including the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, or any agency or governmental subdivision that may provide trainings. It also applies to any association or other organization whose membership consists primarily of any kind of government employees whose budgets are funded primarily by tax-generated revenue (e.g., League of Cities, ISAC, IASB, SAI).
A Senate Amendment strikes the House language prohibiting training of “another state.” The Senate Amendment also strikes the words “divisive concepts” and instead uses the words “specific defined concepts,”which refers to the exact same list of prohibited training concepts as original bill.
Regents Institutions and K12 Public School Districts – Diversity Training Prohibitions
Requires Regent Institutions and public K12 school districts (not private colleges or private K12 religious schools) that require mandatory staff or student training not to teach, advocate, encourage, promote or act upon specific defined concepts. The bill does allow a trainer to respond to questions raised by participants during a training. Institution diversity and inclusion efforts must discourage employees and students from discriminating based on political ideology, or any other characteristic protected under the Federal Civil Rights Act and applicable state law.
The bill will not be construed to create any right or benefit enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the state. The bill will not violate the First Amendment rights of students or faculty, or prevent an institution from promoting racial, cultural, ethnic, intellectual, or academic diversity or inclusiveness, provided such efforts are consistent with the bill’s prohibitions. The bill specifically allows divisive topics to be part of a larger course of academic instruction.
The Senate amendment inserts that the bill will not be construed to prohibit curriculum that teaches the topics of sexism, slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation or racial discrimination, including topics relating to the enactment and enforcement of laws resulting in sexism, racial oppression, segregation and discrimination.
[4/28: 30-18 (Excused: Nunn, Schultz)]
HF 847 – Education Omnibus: flex programs, tax credits, athletic eligibility, open enrollment
HF 847, as amended by the Senate, makes several education policy and funding changes.
Flex Account Program: School districts and nonpublic schools are currently allowed to waive high school offer-and-teach requirements by applying for and receiving an innovative curriculum waiver. The Flexible Student and School Support Program (FS3) established in the bill would allow the waiver of offer-and-teach requirements for grades one through 12 to create programs that focus on a certain area of academics or on student well-being.
Transfer Teacher Leadership (TLC) Funds: Schools may transfer Teacher Leadership Compensation (TLC) funds to the school district’s flex account. Statewide 276 school districts carried forward $45 million in teacher leadership funds, an average of $163,000 per district. Currently, the flex account allows schools to transfer unspent PreK, professional development and Home School Assistance Program (HSAP) funds into their flex accounts.
Teacher Salary Supplement (TSS) Funds: If a school district has more than 5% of their total TSS funding in carry-forward, it willbe paid out to eligible teachers. Schools have carried over $10.5 million of TSS funding in ending balances they haven’t paid to teachers. This subsection is repealed July 1, 2023.
Education Tax Credits (Effective upon enactment and applies retroactively to January 1, 2021)
- Teachers can currently deduct up to $250 in qualified classroom expenses. The bill increases the deduction maximum to $500 per taxpayer. This has an estimated fiscal impact of $410,000 in FY22.
- The bill adds homeschooling eligibility to the tuition and textbook tax credit and doubles the credit for the first 25% of the first $2,000 (max of $500). The current fiscal impact is $15 million. The bill will increase this by $11 million in FY22, for a total of $26 million.
- STO Tax Credit: Increases the tax credit from 65% to 75% of the donation and makes this change retroactive to January 1, 2021. The Republicans say their amendment will eliminate the escalator and move the cap to $20 million.
Pledge of Allegiance: Requires the pledge of allegiance to be recited in grades 1-12 every day.
Face coverings in schools: Allows the principal to not mandate student face coverings as required or recommended by an entity, if the principal believes that no face covering is in the best interest of the student. This language applies COVID limited liability and “safe harbor” provisions to this action. The Senate floor amendment, S-3170, modifies this language to include a requirement that the school board or directors of nonpublic schools approve the decision of the principal and given them this authority.
Charter School Changes for policy found in HF 813:
- Places a limit on the number of charters that can be approved by the state board. The limit will allow one attendance center per level (elementary, middle and secondary) per 10,000 students in a geographic area. This provision will sunset in five years.
- Requires charter schools to abide by Chapter 22 (Open Records).
- Requires the chief administrator of a charter to have Board of Educational Examiners authorization under 272 or a statement of professional recognition that will be developed by the Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE) by December 31, 2021.
- Changes language to clarify that the charter school must notify the student by March 1 of the school year preceding the year of enrollment.
- Clarifies that charter schools will submit an annual report to the state board.
Sit-Time for Athletic Eligibility – Decreased for Open Enrollment: Currently, a high school athlete that open enrolls is ineligible to participate in varsity interscholastic athletic contests during their first 90 days, except if they transferred because of bullying or harassment. The bill adds immediate eligibility if a variety of situations occur, including if both receiving and sending districts agree to waive the 90-day sit period. A committee amendment adds that if a student open enrolls in a different district or nonpublic school anytime during the 2020-2021 school year, and reenrolls in their home district before July 1, 2021, they will be eligible to participate in sports immediately.
Open Enrollment – Good cause if school is “Significant Need for Improvement”: The bill adds to the list of items to determine “good cause,” the determination that the resident district is identified as in “significant need for improvement.”
Open Enrollment – Preschool Special Ed and Child’s Residence: The bill matches HF 385, so a preschool student enrolled in special education programs would match the kindergarten open enrollment deadline of September 1. After the open enrollment deadline, a student could still open enroll if there is “good cause.” The definition of “good cause” is expanded to include a change in a child’s residence from the residence of one parent to that of a different parent or guardian.
Open Enrollment Date Specified: Division III matches HF 316, which requires the sending district to apply payments to the receiving district in a timely manner when the parent or guardian of an open-enrolled student moves to a different school district during the district’s academic year.
Transportation Assistance: Increases eligibility requirements for students from household incomes of 200% or less of the federal poverty level.
School Board Powers and Duties: A school corporation is entrusted with public funds to improve student outcomes, including but not limited to student academic achievement and skill proficiency. The school board is in charge of overseeing such improvement.
Work-Based Learning Coordinator and Special Education Coordinator added to operational sharing: Starting in FY22, a work-based learning coordinator and/or special education director would be added to the list of eligible operational functions supplementary weighting of three pupils. The bill also reduces the operational function assigned weighting of five pupils to four pupils, and those operational functions assigned weighting of three pupils to two pupils beginning budget years July 1, 2022. This will be a reduction in the operations sharing program cost to the state of $2.5 million.
[4/28: 42-6 (No: Bolkcom, Hogg, Quirmbach, J. Smith, T. Taylor, Trone Garriott; Excused: Nunn, Schultz)]
HF 813 – Charter Schools
Iowa’s current Charter School law allows for a public school to create public school charters to expand student learning opportunities through innovative methods. The local school board is required to review all applications, and the charter school must be located within the school district. A school cannot enter into a contract with a charter school without agreement of at least 50% of the teachers employed at the school and 50% of the parents or guardians whose children are enrolled at the school.
HF 813 establishes two new charter school program models.
- Local School Board-State Board Model– a local school board may create a founding group to establish a charter school within a school district by establishing a new attendance center, creating a new school within an existing attendance center, or converting an existing attendance center.
- If a charter school wants to take over an existing attendance center, evidence must be submitted that a majority of the school’s teachers and parents voted in favor of the conversion to a charter.
An application to the Department of Education will include:
- Evidence of need and community support, anticipated fundraising, how long they expect to run as a charter, and the specific statutes and administrative rules the charter school does not plan to comply with.
- Staff organizational chart, proposed bylaws, explanation of any relationships between board members and founding group, evidence of founding groups past success, if applicable.
- Mission and vision, geographic area within school district, grades served and maximum enrollments for each grade, plan for serving Individualized Education Program (IEP) and students below grade level learning, how extracurricular programs will be funded and delivered, student code of conduct and transportation plans.
- Founding Group/Private School Charters – a private founding group may apply for approval to establish and operate a charter school within the boundaries of the state that operates independently (and in competition with) any public-school district as a new attendance center.
Private Charter applications to the State Board will include most of the same requirements as the School Board application except:
- No vote of teachers or parents required before a founding group can start recruiting parents/students and apply for charter school status.
- Only if the application is an “education service provider” must they show success in serving similar student populations.
- Only if the applicant is an “education service provider” does must the application include a description of education service providers, staff performance evaluation, compensation, contract oversight, dispute resolution, investment disclosure and conflicts of interest.
- Only one private/founding group charter application can be considered at a time. Charters can be approved to run multiple charter schools throughout the state.
- Amendment on HF 847 – Places a limit on the number of charters able to be approved by the state board. The limit will allow one attendance center per level (elementary, middle and secondary) per 10,000 students in a geographic area. This provision will sunset in five years.
General operating powers and duties (applicable for all types of charter schools):
An initial charter school contract will be granted for a term of five years. A charter school will be organized as a nonprofit education organization with the powers including, but not limited, to the following:
- Incur debt in anticipation of the receipt of public or private funds. Solicit and accept gifts or grants.
- Acquire public or private property for use as a charter school.
- Charter Board Members will be residents of the “geographic area” serviced by charter school. If a board member does not live in the “geographic area,” they must at least be state residents. There is no prohibition against out-of-state folks/businesses coming in and being a “founding group.”
- There is no prohibition for a member of a founding group to serve on the governing board.
- Each charter school governing board must adopt a conflict of interest policy and a code of ethics for all board members and employees, and adopt a policy regarding family members to avoid nepotism.
Charter Schools are exempt from most state statutes/rules, regulations or policy that apply to other schools, except that the charter school is required to:
- Meet all applicable federal, state health and safety requirements and laws prohibiting discrimination.
- Operate as a nonsectarian, nonreligious school.
- Be free of tuition and application fees to Iowa resident students. Provide transportation to students.
- Be subject to and comply with civil and human rights (chapters 216 and 216A).
- Provide special education services.
- Comply with Chapter 21 requirements (open meetings). But they are not required to comply with open records.
- Amendment on HF 847requires charter schools to abide by Chapter 22 (open records).
Teachers, Administrators, Admission of Students:
- A charter school will employ or contract with licensed teachers.
- Administrators do not have to be licensed administrators. Amendment onHF 847 requires the chief administrator of a charter to have BOEE authorization under 272 or a statement of professional recognition that will be developed by the BOEE.
Direct State Appropriations: The State pays directly for students enrolled in a Charter school who were previously served in home school or nonpublic school, or who recently moved to the district. This is an unlimited appropriation.
- HF 847 clarifies that the charter school must notify the student by March 1 of the school year preceding the year of enrollment.
State Board Oversight/Evaluation: The State Board will monitor performance and compliance of each charter school. A charter school will provide an annual report to the Department of Education and Legislature.
[4/28: 30-18 (No: Democrats; Excused: Nunn, Schultz)]