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During the third week of session, we continued with subcommittee and committee work and we had our first floor debates in the Iowa Senate. Going into this session, we knew that education was going to be a top priority after the challenges of the past year, so we took several steps to improving education in our state:

  • Senate File 160 requires schools to offer a full-time, in-person instruction option for parents who choose it for their students. Currently, 85% of the 327 public school districts in Iowa have been in 100% in person since August, so this only will affect the remaining few who are still in the hybrid or full 100% online models. We know that most students learn best in-person with supports that help them grow and prepare them for post-secondary success. Governor Reynolds signed this bill into law on Friday, January 29th.
  • Senate File 159 is a bill designed to improve public education and increase student achievement. Currently, there are 34 schools that have been identified as needing comprehensive support under the Every Student Succeeds Act. None of those school districts are in the Senate District that I represent, but I feel strongly that every single child in the state of Iowa deserves a quality education, regardless of their zip code. This bill allows only students attending those 34 schools to apply for a scholarship to receive their education elsewhere. The estimated appropriation is around $3 million (Iowa spends $3.5 billion on education each year). Concerns that this takes away from public education are addressed because the program will be cost-neutral to the state since students would be transferring from a public school and the amount of the scholarship is less than the state cost per pupil. It also allows for the creation of public charter schools that provides high-quality instruction that fits their students’ needs, disallows school districts to deny open enrollment requests based on socioeconomic status, implements a statewide student information system for attendance and information needed for state and federal reporting, allows public school districts flexibility with unused Teacher Leadership Compensation funds (currently $45 million isn’t being utilized statewide), expands Education Tax Credits for tuition and tax book credits as well as the Educator Deduction for teachers who purchase items for their classrooms and will determine enrollment calculations that are more reflective of the student population for better on-time funding to school districts.

Author: Chris Cournoyer