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From Sen. Charles Schneider’s newsletter:

Most people I talk to agree that there’s more to improving educational outcomes in Iowa than just increasing state spending. I’ve been open to innovative ways to help our schools address the challenges they face. This year, I’ve filed two bills in response to suggestions I’ve received from a school board member and a former school administrator.

One bill has to do with handling snow days. Winter weather has forced many school districts to close their doors this year for more days than anticipated. As a result, some school districts are planning to extend their school years to ensure they fulfill their state-mandated number of school days.

This week, I introduced a bill (SF 353) to study the feasibility of allowing school districts to use virtual snow days to meet their minimum school day requirements. Some districts in northern Iowa are already using virtual days to keep students engaged when winter weather keeps them out of classrooms. However, Iowa law prohibits these virtual days from counting toward a district’s minimum number of required school days per year. Perhaps technology can help reduce the number of make-up days in years where Mother Nature wants to extend the school year to mid-June.

Another bill I filed this week (SF 352) is intended to deepen the pool of talented individuals who can enter education as teachers or administrators. It directs the state to develop alternative credentialing rules for individuals with a bachelor’s degree and robust professional experience to get their school administrator or teacher license.

Many of my colleagues tell me it’s harder for schools in their rural districts to find teachers. A former school administrator in one of the school districts I represent mentioned that larger school districts have a hard time finding superintendents with experience running large organizations. My bill addresses both of those issues.

If a chemist wants to leave the lab to teach a high school science class, he or she should not have to go through unnecessary red tape to do it. If a business leader wants to serve as a district superintendent and the school board believes that person is the best candidate, the law should not prohibit the district from hiring that person.

This bill is not intended to diminish the important work our teachers and school administrators do throughout the state; anyone wanting to make such a transition will need to learn some new skills. It simply recognizes the potential value that business leaders and accomplished professionals can add to our schools.

I welcome your feedback on these ideas. Please contact me to share your views on education or any other issue facing the legislature this session.


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