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Proposal would remove some regulations for Iowa’s public schools
Bill advancing in Legislature will remove ‘burdensome and trivial’ requirements, governor’s office says
Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau
Feb. 7, 2023 6:26 pm, Updated: Feb. 8, 2023 10:20 am
DES MOINES — Iowa lawmakers advanced a bill eliminating reporting requirements and other regulations on public K-12 schools.
The bill, proposed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, covers several provisions that a representative from Reynolds’ office said will remove “burdensome and trivial” requirements on schools. The bill:
- Eliminates the requirement for schools to develop an annual comprehensive improvement plan
- Allows school districts to hire a person who has previously worked as a public librarian for the position of teacher librarian
- Prohibits schools from offering more than five days or 30 hours of instruction online per year
- Provides flexibility for schools contracting with community colleges to teach high school courses
- Allows schools to teach sequential units of a subject in the same classroom
- Loosens educational standards required to graduate and removes requirements for certain instruction
- Extends extra funding for school districts that share administrators and staff
“This proposal will eliminate redundant reporting, allow greater flexibility in course credits, and encourage schools to offer options best suited to their students,” said Molly Severn, a representative with Reynolds’ office.
However, some lobbyists and education representatives were concerned that the loosening of requirements in the bill would lead to subpar education for Iowa’s students.
Michelle Kruse, a teacher librarian from Cedar Rapids, said the skill set for teacher librarians is distinct from public librarians, and public librarians may not be able to provide the same education as a certified teacher librarian.
“If the intention of these proposed changes is to address the shortage of teacher librarians within the state, we need to have a conversation about the reasons current teachers are not choosing to go on to seek certification as a teacher librarian,” she said.
The bill also requires schools to offer two units of a foreign language rather than four, and removes the requirement that schools include instructions about HIV and AIDS, which some lobbyists opposed.
House Study Bill 119 passed out of a subcommittee with only Republican support. It now is eligible for consideration by the full House committee on education.
County compensation boards
Iowa county boards of supervisors would be able to create or dissolve county compensation boards under a proposal advanced in the Iowa House on Tuesday.
Iowa law currently requires counties to have compensation boards that set the salaries for elected officials. Under the bill, if a county does not have a compensation board, the board of supervisors would serve the same function.
Compensation boards would be required to provide data to the board of supervisors explaining how they decided salaries.
It also allows counties to reduce the proposed salary increase of certain officials, but the compensation cannot be lower than the previous year. Current law only allows counties to reduce the proposed salary increase of all county elected officials equally.
House File 75 passed a House subcommittee, 2-1.
Commercial trucker protections
Legal protections for commercial trucking companies advanced out of the Senate’s judiciary committee.
Under the proposed legislation, trucking companies would be shielded from liability for direct negligence in many cases if their drivers are involved in a serious crash, and jury awards for non-economic damages in cases regarding crashes involving commercial truck drivers would be capped at $1 million. The legislation does not cap awards for economic or punitive damages.
Only Republicans on the committee supported Senate Study Bill 1114, which now is available for consideration by the full Senate.
Sen. Michael Bousselot, R-Ankeny, said he believes the bill would protect the supply chain by adding legal protections for trucking companies, and also protect people who are injured in crashes.
Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, said the proposal could restrict juries from being able to make whole the victims of crashes involving commercial truck drivers.
A proposal to remove judges from District Court Judicial Nominating Commissions, and give the governor a sixth appointee to the 11-member panels, passed out of the Senate’s judiciary committee.
Currently, the most tenured judge in the district serves on the commission as chair.
Only majority Republicans voted to approve Senate File 171, which now becomes eligible for consideration by the full Senate.
Opponents of the legislation say judges bring important perspective and expertise to the process of nominating new judges to openings in Iowa’s District Court system. Supporters of the bill say the judges can have an outsized influence over the process.
Last year, Republican legislators approved a similar change that kept the judge on the commissions. Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed that provision, saying it still left too much influence in the judge’s hands.