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Debate in the Iowa House is starting to slow down as we reach the final weeks of session. Most of the conversations in the Capitol have switched to focusing on the budget and tax policy. However, this week the House did pass one big bill that I wanted to take some time to explain. This week, the House passed Senate File 496, which contains many education proposals. The House amended the legislation, sending it back to the Senate for their consideration. There’s quite a bit in this bill, so let’s break down the big pieces. Policy already passed by the HouseThis bill ensures all books in schools are “age appropriate.”  This part of the bill was in the Senate’s bill and remains in our amendment. It explicitly states that age-appropriate books do not include books that contain graphic images or descriptions of a sex act. I’ve talked extensively about this in previous newsletters that you can read HEREThe bill also prohibits curriculum on gender identity or sexual orientation in K-6th grade, another bill I’ve talked about in my newsletter before that you can read HERE. This policy was also in both the Senate and House versions of the bill. Our amendment also added on some policies that the House has already passed but the Senate hasn’t taken action on. Those policies include reforming the Board of Educational Examiners to ensure parents are on the board. And, creating new pathways to license teachers to address the teacher shortage. New policy, not previously passed by the HouseBoth the House and Senate want to ensure that schools can’t keep secrets from parents about their child’s gender identity. However, the House amended the bill sent to us by the Senate and passed our language on the matter.Our amendment states that if a student requests an accommodation at school for a gender identity that is different than their sex at birth, the teacher must report that information to the administration, and the administration must tell the parents.  I believe our language is a simpler approach to this. There isn’t room for discretion, bias, or an agenda. The trigger for when the parents must be informed is very clear.It also removes the teacher from the situation so they can stick to what they really signed up to do – teaching.The bill also removes the requirement in code to teach about AIDS and the HPV vaccine. There has been a lot of misconception around this piece of the bill so let me be clear – the bill does not prohibit instruction on either of these topics, it just eliminates the requirement. This was a fairly unique requirement in code so it made sense to eliminate it and leave it up to the school district. I expect many schools will keep these topics in their curriculum. Our version of this bill now heads back to the Senate for their consideration.

Author: Pat Grassley


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