Iowa House passes bill to measure school year in hours, not days

Proposal would change measurement from 180 days to 1,080 hours

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School districts across the state will measure their time in hours, not days, under legislation that passed out of the Iowa House on Wednesday.

Under the proposal, a school year would have a minimum length of 1,080 hours. The exact configuration of those hours would be determined by the local school board.

A school year is currently defined as 180 days.

The bill had overwhelming support in the House, passing 84-16, with all the “no” votes coming from Democrats.

Retired teacher Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, was one of the “no” votes. She worried about school districts adopting longer days and a school year that might not go for 180 days to save money.

“I don’t see that as in the best interest of kids, so when I look at the unintended consequences of a bill like this, I get concerned because I know how cash-strapped districts are,” she said. “I know they are looking for ways to save dollars and, if this is one of them, I fear they will go that route even though it might not be in the best interest of kids.”

But supporters said the measure gives school districts more control to work out a schedule that works best in their communities. It also mirrors legislation that’s contained in the Iowa Senate’s education reform package.

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