116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Legislation allowing Iowa school districts, including Waterloo and Davenport, to end voluntary diversity programs is on its way to the governor’s desk.
The House, which approved the change earlier, concurred with a Senate amendment Tuesday and voted 55-37 to send House File 228 to Gov. Kim Reynolds. The amendment would make the bill effective upon her signature and make an exemption to the open enrollment deadline for people in those districts.
The bill would end a school district’s ability to implement a diversity program as a reason to deny open enrollment. Five districts — Davenport, Waterloo, Postville, West Liberty and Des Moines — have voluntary plans based on income. West Liberty also includes English Language Learners as a reason for its diversity plan.
Led by Reps. Ras Smith of Waterloo and Cindy Winckler of Davenport, Democrats argued that by adopting the amendment the Legislature would be overruling local school board decision-making and make a bad bill even worse. Local districts have certified their budgets “and we’re moving the goal posts,” Smith said. Legislative decisions have consequences, Winckler added, and the amendment could have a significant impact on Davenport’s “precarious” budget situation.
However, Rep. Dustin Hite, R-New Sharon, said decisions “should be about the kids, not the school districts themselves.” In the case of Des Moines, he said, the fiscal impact could be as high as one-half of 1 percent of the budget, which the district could find in the $55 million allocated to the administrative budget.
A concentration of low-income students has been shown to affect overall student achievement. To help them succeed, schools may choose to offer assistance through free and reduced-price lunches, and additional tutoring during before- and after-school programs.
Voluntary assistance programs provide a means for districts to distribute those students needing more assistance throughout the districts as well as address racial balance and “white flight.”
The argument for barring open enrollment is that families that choose to open enroll out of their district of residence have to provide transportation, and low-income families may not have the resources to do that, according to Democrats. Over time, open enrollment could lead to economic and racial isolation.
The House also concurred with Senate changes and sent to the governor:
HF 493, to regulate electric bikes or e-bikes. Iowa law is not clear on the definition of an e-bike and where they may be ridden, legislators said. Approved 91-1, it would regulate low-speed electric bikes similar to regular bicycles on streets, highways, bike lanes, multiuse paths and other places of operation. House File 493 would impose a 20 mph speed limit for low-speed electric bikes where a limit is not posted.
HF 196, to expand a health care professional recruitment program. The Senate amended it to extend the program to more health care-related professions. Winckler supported the bill, but said the Senate amendment effectively created two programs to recruit health care professionals to rural areas. She encouraged the body to study the programs to identify duplication and gaps to be more strategic in efforts to recruit those professionals to underserved communities.
It was approved, 92-0.
The House also sent SF 336 to the governor. It would allow leave for state employees to be organ and bone marrow donors, and grant them up to two hours four times a year to donate blood. It was approved 48-0 by the Senate; the House followed suit, 91-0.
SF 524 to create an inpatient psychiatric bed tracking system study committee was approved 92-0. It goes back to the Senate because the House amended it to add language to require insurance companies to reimburse health care professionals and facilities for mental health services on the same basis whether the service is delivered in person or via telehealth.
Comments: (319) 398-8375; firstname.lastname@example.org