The 2019-20 school year is just about underway!
Over the past several legislative session, we have worked hard to make sure Iowa kids receive a world-class education. For too long, our conversations about education have been dominated by money. How much more were we going to spend. I am proud that in recent years we have moved beyond that yearly debate and been able to discuss additional ways to make Iowa’s education system work even better for students and parents.
Here is a sampling of some of the bipartisan work we have accomplished…
Keeping Schools Safe: School safety has been a major topic of concern in conversations that I have had with parents from all over. That’s why we have made it a priority to equip schools with the tools they need to keep our kids, teachers, and staff safe.
In 2018, we required all Iowa school districts to coordinate with local law enforcement to develop response plans in the event of an emergency. But this wasn’t all we did. We also ensured that districts have additional resources to pay for upgrades like secure entrances, security cameras, and other features that improve safety in our schools. These updates should give parents significant peace of mind knowing that schools have much of what they need to keep kids safe.
Additionally, we made schools safer by requiring administrators to report employee misconduct to the Board of Educational Examiners in a timely manner. Previously, there was no timeline required to report certain types of misbehavior by school staff which provided the potential for known predators to move from school to school undetected. This is a common sense fix that will protect Iowa’s students.
Recruiting High Quality Teachers: Another major issue that we have worked to address is a shortage of trained educators in our classrooms. Much like businesses across Iowa, schools are struggling to find qualified teachers in the areas that they need such as science and math. Many states in the Midwest are having the same issue that Iowa is, especially in rural areas.
To ease this issue, we passed legislation that requires the Department of Education to more closely align teacher readiness standards with neighboring states like Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin. This change will help attract additional teachers and will be particularly beneficial to communities, like North Iowa, that border other states.
Unprecedented Flexibility: In addition to school safety and teacher recruitment, we have also made it a priority to provide schools with additional flexibility and allow for more local decision-making. Schools in Hampton and Clear Lake don’t look the same as schools in Des Moines or Cedar Rapids. Allowing local school boards and administrators to make more decisions that work best for their districts will ultimately improve the education experience for the students. Over the last several years, we have given schools more control over their funding as well given them home rule authority. Both of these changes will improve student outcomes and we have already heard great feedback from schools all across the state. We will continue to look for opportunities to provide even more flexibility in the future.
School Infrastructure: Perhaps one of the biggest things we did for education this past session was extending the school infrastructure fund, known as SAVE. This is the penny that you pay as part of the state sales tax which is distributed to schools across the state. Schools use these resources to build new buildings, update old buildings, upgrade classroom technology, and help address Iowa’s worker shortage through the development of career academies. SAVE helps fund all of these priorities while also delivering significant property tax relief to local residents.