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Iowa Senate passes bill loosening school requirements
Democrats decry legislation as ‘dumbing down’ state’s public schools
Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau
Mar. 7, 2023 7:26 pm
Iowa schools would have fewer requirements on what they teach and how they provide instruction under a bill the Iowa Senate passed Tuesday.
Senate File 391, proposed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, removes a list of requirements on Iowa’s public schools. Under the bill:
• Schools would no longer be required to report a comprehensive improvement plan to the state
• Schools could hire a person previously employed as a public librarian to be a school librarian, rather than a certified teacher librarian
• No more than five days or 30 hours of instruction could be delivered online
• Community college instructors would be able teach more classes at the high school level
• Schools would be able to teach multiple sequential units of a subject in the same classroom
• Requirements around financial literacy instruction, instruction regarding HIV and AIDS, and world languages would be removed
Democrats put up amendments to reinstate certain requirements the bill removed, including the requirement that schools employ certified teacher librarians and offer four units of world languages, but they were voted down.
The bill passed along party lines, 33-16, with one senator not voting. It will need to pass in the House before heading to Gov. Kim Reynolds' desk for a signature.
Rebuffing arguments from Democrats that the bill would weaken the standards at Iowa schools, Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, said schools still would have the option to offer all the classes they do now, but they would have more flexibility to offer the instruction they can best accommodate.
“This bill gives more local control to school districts and school boards in their requirements by allowing them flexibility within courses and offerings so that they are better able to structure class time based on their local situations and needs,” Kraayenbrink said.
But Democrats said the bill would result in “dumbing down” Iowa’s education system by requiring fewer options to be offered to students and reducing opportunities. Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said the bill would result in cuts to school services.
“Flexibility is a euphemism here," he said. "Flexibility, what it really translates to is a permission to cut."
Iowa attorney general challenges E15 rule
Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird signed onto an “intent-to-sue” letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, pressuring the agency to alter a slated rule change to allow sales of E15 this summer.
The EPA this month announced intentions to allow the sale of E15 — gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol — year-round, starting in April 2024. The fuel is restricted in the summer because of concerns about air pollution.
The change was in response to a 2022 request from a bipartisan group of Midwest governors, including Gov. Kim Reynolds, to allow the sale of E15 in the summer in their states. But Reynolds, Bird and other Iowa politicians have criticized the effective date of the rule, urging the agency to begin the waiver this year.
“With record-high gas prices, consumers deserve relief and flexibility when paying at the pump,” Bird said in a news release. “The EPA’s failure to respond on time not only deprives hard-working Iowans of a cheaper, cleaner option, it’s also a violation of the Clean Air Act.”
In the letter, Bird and Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers said the delay in implementing the rule is “a constructive denial of the waivers the governors requested.”
Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird joined nearly all other states in a court brief urging the social media app TikTok to comply with an investigation into alleged consumer protection violations.
The attorneys general are investigating whether the company has negatively affected youth mental health and violated laws in the process.
In a news release, Bird's office said the company failed to preserve relevant communications by allowing employees to send messages through an auto-deleting app, and what information they did provide was "in an almost impossible-to-read format."
Obtaining all the relevant communications, Bird said, is vital to "hold social media companies such as TikTok accountable and address our growing youth mental-health crisis."
Changes to cocktails to-go
The Iowa House passed a bill that would make changes to the way Iowa restaurants and bars sell cocktails to-go.
The change is necessary to comply with federal open container laws and ensure that Iowa does not lose about $14.2 million in annual federal funding for bridge and road projects.
Lawmakers passed and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law in 2020 a measure that legalized the sale of mixed drinks or cocktails to-go by certain liquor license holders. The measure was meant to help establishments that lost revenue early in the COVID-19 pandemic, when in-person dining largely ceased and to-go orders and deliveries became the norm.
Currently, under Iowa Code, a mixed drink or cocktail to-go may be transported in a sealed container and is not deemed an open container as long as the seal has not been compromised, and includes a container with a sipping hole or other opening for a straw, which violates new federal regulations.
Under House File 433, “sealed container” means one designed “to prevent consumption without removal of a tamper-evident lid, cap or seal.” The following containers are not considered a sealed container under the bill:
• A cup made of plastic intended for one-time use.
• A cup made of paper or foam.
• A cup with a hole that includes a tamper-evident seal.
• A vacuum or heat-sealed pouch.
Kim Reynolds appoints district judge
Gov. Kim Reynolds has appointed Kristen Formanek of Ankeny to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Polk County Associate District Judge Cynthia Moisan.
Formanek currently serves as an assistant Polk County attorney and has served as an assistant Story County attorney. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa and her law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law.