I am writing this on April 10, 2017 after the final funnel in this legislative session. Bills that have already passed and been signed by the Governor include:

●     A bill requiring the Department of Education (DE) to issue the RFP for the selection of a statewide assessment to be administered in the 2018-2019 school year. This assessment will replace Smarter Balanced testing, previously approved by the DE. Now a new assessment aligned with Iowa Core academic standards needs to be found to measure English language arts, mathematics, and science. This assessment will be given in grades 5, 8, and 10.

The following items have been approved by both bodies of the legislature and are either signed or expected to be signed by the Governor.

●     Two flexible spending bills for schools will allow school districts to move unobligated funds to other areas of need in the district.  These funding shifts would need to be approved by the district’s school board following a public hearing.

●     Requiring “high-quality computer science instruction” (Seivert, 2017) is a bill sent to the Governor on April 25. Note that the bill does not include a mandate to school districts for implementation. Instead, the bill calls for a committee to be formed with the purpose of making recommendations by November 2017.

  • A bill that requires the DE to adopt rules regarding high school equivalencies has been signed by the Governor. The overall bill would allow students to focus on core competencies not met with post-secondary coursework. What is created must align with existing assessments like HiSET and the Adult Diploma offered by some Iowa community colleges.

●     Another bill has been passed increasing local control for school districts. School districts will be able to, “… liberally construe Iowa Code and make policy decisions that are not specifically outlined in code” (Seivert, 2017). School districts have been limited to implementing only what is in the Iowa code, if this passes the Senate they will be able to interpret the code locally.

While the Education Savings Accounts, also known as school vouchers, did not become law this session, it is clear that this will be revisited in next year’s legislative session. It may serve us well as a community of citizens who understand and care about public education to be ready to educate our representatives about the implications of vouchers in Iowa. Another bill that was not approved would have allowed parents and guardians of students at a school to give the school a “no confidence” rating. If a majority of the parents and guardians at a school sign a petition indicating that the school is not meeting their children’s needs, the school is required to do what the parents think is needed to “turn around” the school. Similar legislation has already passed in some sates and will probably be revisited in the next session in Iowa.

Related to federal government news, all of the teacher education parts of ESSA were overturned. So, as of now, no grading of teacher education programs will be part of ESSA. What will replace it is unknown and there appears to be no movement federally to redefine the teacher education part of ESSA. The federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year has not yet been passed by the legislature. That said, the president’s budget contains deep cuts to education, 13% cut to education overall. At this time, the budget has not been finalized, so what ends up happening to federal education cuts remains to be seen.

The President issued an executive order late in April requiring Education Secretary Devos to undertake a study to "determine where the federal government has unlawfully overstepped on state and local control,” (Pilkington, 2017) with the goal of returning control of education to states. Part of this appears to be directed toward the Common Core State Standards, making them no longer part of federally funded directives.

                   — Catherine M. Miller

 

References

American Association of College of Teacher Education. (2017) Ed Prep Matters. Retrieved on May 2, 2017 from http://edprepmatters.net/2017/03/presidents-fy18-budget-blueprint-includes-deep-cuts-to-education/.

Iowa Legislature. (2017) Bill Book. Retrieved on May 2, 2017 from https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook.

Pilkington, Randy. (2017) Executive Order Coming Today. Sent to C. Miller on April 26, 2017.

Seivert, Shan. (2017) Legislative update for 4/09/2017. Retrieved on April 10, 2017 from https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/IACIO/bulletins/1918a2d.