House File 197 maneuvered itself out of subcommittee on a 2-1 vote with Republican Representatives Skyler Wheeler and Norlin Mommsen signing off in support with an amendment.
The bill would require school districts to assign siblings who are deemed by the district to be at the same grade level academically to the same classroom if the siblings’ parent or guardian submits to the school administration, prior to the start of the school semester, a written request that the siblings be assigned to the same classroom.
Emily Piper spoke on behalf of the Iowa Association of School Boards. The group is registered neutral on the bill.
“Generally speaking we would have some concerns with how prescriptive it is,” Piper said.
The group suggested an amendment to the bill that would limit the bill to K-5 grade levels.
Bradley Hudson of the Iowa State Education Association said that group is undecided as well.
“Most of the time we feel like the parents do get to talk about this with the principal and address it,” Hudson said. “The concern we have is if they start having discipline issues between the two of them, which can happen with siblings, it says we have to keep them in the same room. That’d be the one concern.”
Amy Campbell spoke as a mother of twins. She also has a child with a cousin of similar age, basically like a twin. She supports the bill.
“I’ve had a great experience with the Johnston School Board with my twins as well as my older daughter,” Campbell said. “The school district has always been really good about proactively asking us and then doing that. I’m here in support of this with the amendment. It makes sense. I’ve had friends in school districts told no, under no circumstances would they allow them to be in the same room. This will help create a little bit more of a standard process.”
Democrat Rep. Lindsay James did not support the bill.
“I have concern when we are questioning our very capable school boards and teachers to make decisions,” Rep. James said. “I think this is a push and an overreach, so I’m not comfortable signing the bill.”
Rep. Wheeler said this is a bill that was in the works with former Rep. Walt Rogers. Parental rights, Rep. Wheeler said, trump local control.
“Honestly when it comes down to it the philosophy is the parents’ rights,” Wheeler said. “The parent knows best for the kids, the school does not know. Parents come first and trump local control and trump administrators.”
Rep. Wheeler said he liked the amendment and said it makes sense.