Iowa governor: education bills provide ‘transformational’ reform

(The Center Square) – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed seven bills that cover education issues, her office announced Friday.

The bills’ topics range from parents’ rights, state board of…

(The Center Square) – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed seven bills that cover education issues, her office announced Friday.

The bills’ topics range from parents’ rights, state board of regents’ responsibilities and licensing for teachers moving into Iowa from other states. All but two bills – SF391 and SF496 – received unanimous or nearly unanimous support in the legislature.

SF391 measures include reducing Iowa students’ world language studies requirements from four sequential units to two sequential units. Beginning July 1, school districts’ librarian doesn’t need to have licensure from the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners or a master’s degree. Instead, districts also have the option to hire someone who used to be a librarian at a public library. Schools can teach sequential units within the same classroom and can partner with a community college for any subject as long as the college or college instructor teaches during the regular school day. School health curriculum doesn’t need to cover AIDS. Parents can ask that their child be excused from the physical education requirement. Schools can’t deliver more than five days of instruction online.

Under SF496, if the Department of Education determines that a school district employee has allowed children access to materials that aren’t age-appropriate, that employee will face disciplinary action. “Age-appropriate” means communication that is suitable based on the child’s developing cognitive, emotional and behavioral capacity. Materials can’t have descriptions or visual depictions of sex acts. The bill also forbids school districts from teaching students in kindergarten through sixth grades regarding gender identity and sexual orientation. Districts can’t give false or misleading information to parents regarding a student’s gender identity or intent to transition gender. Effective immediately, school district employees may notify parents within 24 hours after witnessing bullying of the parents’ child by another child.

HF135 requires the State Board of Regents to annually publish online data including the percent of students who have completed a master’s or doctorate degree after a bachelor’s degree program; median income of students one year, five years and 10 years after graduating with a bachelor’s degree; and the amount of student loan debt compared with a student’s monthly gross income.

HF430 allows any adult school employee to report child abuse. School districts can’t agree to not share information with government or a potential employer regarding discipline of an employee who commits a felony or child abuse.

HF604 allows the Iowa Office of Ombudsman to investigate any educator’s complaint of school violence and maintain secrecy regarding the complainant’s identity. Classroom teachers must report any threat of violence to the principal or lead administrator within 24 hours and may notify the student’s parents and the threatened student’s parents regarding the incident. The principal or lead administrator must notify both sets of parents within 24 hours of the teacher’s report. School boards can’t retaliate against any employee for disclosing information to a public official or law enforcement agency that the employee believes is criminal or dangerous.

HF672 eliminates renewal requirements for practitioners with master’s or doctoral degrees who have been employed for at least 10 years. The Board of Educational Examiners can’t verify licensed individuals completed mandatory trainings. The board’s processing fees for renewal applications drops from $85 to $50.

HF614 allows the Board of Educational Examiners to issue a license to applicants who have evidence from other countries or states that they have completed full education licensure requirements.

“This legislative session, we secured transformational education reform that puts parents in the driver’s seat, eliminates burdensome regulations on public schools, provides flexibility to raise teacher salaries, and empowers teachers to prepare our kids for their future,” Reynolds said in a statement. “Education is the great equalizer and everyone involved – parents, educators, our children – deserves an environment where they can thrive.”