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Legislative action during week 11 in the Iowa House may finally be bringing some closure to three priority education issues at the Capitol. On Thursday, the House passed an amended version HF 2612. The bill was originally passed by the House three weeks ago and included our version of the Area Education Agency (AEA) reform that was much less disruptive than the governor proposed earlier in the year. Last week, the Senate amended the bill with language that was more closely aligned with the governor. It also included a teacher pay component. The House had previously passed a stand-alone minimum teacher pay package.

AEAs, Teacher Pay, and SSA

Right from the start, I feel it’s important to address some concerns. I spoke on the bill during debate, but I do not agree with the governor’s original premise that led to the whole conversation about AEA reform. I was accurately quoted in the Cedar Rapids Gazette when I opened with this statement, “I want to make it very clear that AEAs are not failing students. The people that work in the AEAs are not failing the students. My two children have benefited greatly because of the people that work at the AEA.” You can watch my comments at the link below.

There have been a lot of moving parts as this bill has morphed throughout the legislative process. We took a lot of feedback from Iowans in crafting this bill. We heard from parents, teachers, superintendents, the AEAs, the Department of Education and more. Here are some important points that have changed from the original proposal:

  • School districts are required to use the AEAs for special education services, there will not be any disruption to special education services.
  • The Department of Education does not take control of AEAs.
  • Employees of the AEAs are not terminated.
  • AEAs are not prohibited from performing any of the services they do now.

I ultimately voted for the bill because I was able to have input about specific pieces that improved the bill and will benefit not just students with disabilities, but all students. And I was able to help remove the pieces I thought negatively impacted student outcomes and the success of the AEA system. The House amendment that became the bill also includes minimum teacher pay and para educator pay components that the Senate was not willing to take up after passing the House. These parts of the bill are critical to recruiting teachers and education support staff. It is very important to note that teacher pay increases are not being made by taking funding away from AEA services. Teacher pay and increased state supplemental aid (SSA) is all new money being invested into education.

These are the primary reasons I supported the bill:

  • The bill increases the minimum teacher pay to $47,500 in the first year and $50,000 in the second year. This will put Iowa’s minimum teacher salary at 5th highest in the nation. When adjusted for cost of living, this puts Iowa’s beginning teachers in a great spot compared to their peers.
  •  A second tier for minimum teacher pay is created. Teachers who have 12 years of experience can make no less than $60,000 in year one and $62,000 in year two. The addition of this second tier means a lot of new money particularly for rural schools.
  • $22.3 million is allocated for the teacher salary supplemental (TSS) funding so schools can increase veteran teacher pay and to help with the pay compaction concerns we have heard from some school districts.
  • The minimum teacher pay and TSS funding will be built into the base going forward, meaning it will increase with SSA in subsequent years.
  • This bill will incentivize retired teachers to help fill workforce gaps in schools. It contains a policy that allows retired teachers to return to the classroom without affecting their IPERS benefits. These teachers would be able to return to schools in a limited capacity after just one month of retirement. This will incentivize experienced teachers to return to the classroom or in other capacities to address workforce struggles facing our schools.
  • $14 million is appropriated to increase pay for paraeducators and other educational support staff. This piece was an Iowa House priority and its inclusion in the bill was critical for my support.
  • The increase in SSA percentage was set at 2.5%. The House originally passed 3% SSA and that’s certainly what I would’ve preferred to pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor. However, with a 2.5% SSA increase, which means a little over 110M increase to put toward salaries and general fund expenditures, the new teacher pay minimum tiers and funding, the additional TSS component, new educational support staff funding and new funds the House plans to allocate towards school safety, the total new money for schools equates to the equivalent of more than 5% SSA.
  • A task force is created to study the best way to improve special education and review the current AEA system to look for areas for improvement. The task force will look for ways to improve services, consolidate buildings, provide effective oversight, eliminate redundancies and ultimately better outcomes for students.
  • This bill brings AEA chief salaries more in line with superintendents. Going forward, AEA chief salaries cannot exceed 125% of the average superintendent’s salaries within their region. Currently, the nine chiefs leading the AEAs each make around $300,000 annually.
  • Sixty-one new positions are created at the Department of Education to support the delivery of special education services across the state and assure accountability of the AEA system to schools and parents. All but thirteen of the positions will be embedded within the nine AEAs. This component goes to addressing concerns raised by the US Department of Education. These new positions do not mean the elimination of positions at the AEAs.

Other Legislation

The House wasn’t solely focused on education issues this week, but it was slower in general than previous weeks. Twenty other bills were passed during the week, bringing the total to 183 bills passed by the House. So far this session, 42 bills have been passed by both chambers, while just one has been signed by the governor. You can see the full list of bills awaiting the governor’s signature at the link https://www.legis.iowa.gov/law/statutory/acts/enrolledBills. I have highlighted three bills passed this week.

HF 2655 provides that childcare centers and facilities will be given the residential rollback (instead of commercial) for property tax purposes. Current law provides that childcare centers are commercial properties and are assigned a 90 percent rollback. This means they pay property tax on 90 percent of their assessed value. This year, the residential rollback is 46 percent, so this bill would be a property tax cut for these businesses. A person who wishes to qualify for this rollback must file an application with the assessor by July 1 of the assessment year they want the benefit. They will not have to apply in subsequent years so long as the property is still used for this purpose.

HF 2649 creates a capital gains exclusion for sales of certain livestock. The bill allows a taxpayer to exclude the net capital gain from the sale of cattle or horses if held by the taxpayer for breeding, draft, dairy, or sporting purposes for more than 24 months. It also excludes the net capital gain from the sale of breeding livestock, other than cattle or horses, held by the taxpayer for a period of 12 months or more. The bill applies retroactively to tax year 2023.

HF 2340 would allow Iowa law enforcement to arrest illegal aliens who are in Iowa after previously being denied entry to the United States. The bill creates a new crime of illegal reentry to the state of Iowa. This would apply to any undocumented immigrant that has previously been deported or denied admission to the US. In most cases this crime would be an aggravated misdemeanor, though it would rise to a felony in certain circumstances, and the person must return to the country they came from. The bill passed the House with a bipartisan vote and was sent to the Governor’s desk.

Author: Chad Ingels


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