Government

Iowa Senate approves online learning change: Bill expands opportunities for home-school kids

The Senate chamber at the State Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Senate chamber at the State Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate passed and sent Gov. Kim Reynolds legislation Monday that would allow home-schooled students to take online courses without enrolling in a public school or an accredited private school.

Senate File 2131 was approved 50-0 after senators accepted changes made by the House, which passed the bill 60-39 last month.

The measure would open access to the state’s Iowa Learning Online program, which Sen. Jeff Edler, R-State Center, told his colleagues is a good idea to expand educational opportunities.

“It will provide another option for receiving a quality education in Iowa,” said Edler, who served as floor manager.

The bill is designed to expand the options under an Iowa Department of Education initiative that provides high-quality teaching and learning to students receiving private instruction through home schooling or non-accredited nonpublic schools in a manner that does not create costs to local districts.

Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, offered several amendments he said would bring more oversight to home schooling in light of recent deaths of two teenagers. They died after their abuse went undetected due in part to a 2013 legislative change that ended several home-schooling reporting and visitation requirements.

However, he withdrew the amendments before they came up for votes.

“We have an obligation to protect our home-school children,” McCoy said during floor debate.

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But Edler responded that the bill senators were approving would address some of the concerns raised “because it is done through video connection, (which) is one more way to have oversight on a child through that video connection to see the condition on the child.”

Egg bill

In separate action, senators voted 32-17 to approve and send a bill to the governor’s desk that would place a mandate on the sale of eggs in grocery stores by requiring that if grocers participate in the Women, Infants and Children program, they must carry an inventory of conventional — white — eggs if they carried conventional eggs before Jan. 1 of this year.

Backers said House File 2408 would guarantee a steady supply of white eggs at supermarkets in a state that is No. 1 in egg production, while opponents charged majority Republicans were interfering in free markets.

“This really is direct interference with the marketplace, with merchants’ ability to choose what products they will or will not offer based upon their consumers’ reactions,” said Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames.

“I don’t think this is an area we need to be legislating,” added Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids.

But Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the bill’s floor manager, called HF 2408 “a home run, game-winning bill” that will ensure stores that sell specialty eggs, such as cage-free and organic, to also sell conventional eggs as a cost-effective product for Iowans who participate in supplemental nutrition programs.

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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