IOWA LEGISLATURE

Iowa House approves classroom behavior pilot project

The House of Representatives chambers are seen at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyt
The House of Representatives chambers are seen at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — Pilot projects — for improving classroom environments and for providing legal representation for families involved with the Department of Human Services — were approved Wednesday by the Iowa House along with unanimous approval of one of Gov. Kim Reynolds’s Future Ready priorities.

On a 95-3 vote, the House approved Senate File 2360, the classroom behavior bill that Education Committee Chairman Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mount Ayr, said will help deal with increased reports of violence in K-12 schools.

The bill has changed significantly from what was introduced in January, he said, and thanked Democrats for their input in crafting legislation that was unanimously approved in the Senate.

It’s a beginning, added Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, a retired classroom teacher.

“This is a pilot ... a model” that will be used in small, medium and large school districts to “put best practices in place for all districts.”

“This is what I do for a living,” said Rep. Molly Donahue, D-Cedar Rapids, who has taught special education for 30 years, and one of the “no” votes. “A lot has changed in this bill but not enough.”

Along with offering specialized spaces in school districts with smaller class sizes and more individualized attention, the legislation provides guidelines for actions school employees can take to address violent student behavior and provides funding for standardized training and employee protections from disciplinary action by a school.

Online Learning

The House vote 91-6 to approve online education legislation that could give school districts an option if schools can’t open this fall because of COVID-19.

Rep. Tom Moore, R-Griswold, said Senate File 2310 was “in the hopper” before schools were closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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“This not only sets up our online learning as well as provides for the need during we’ve had during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moore said. “I think we’re going to see change within our school districts as a result of this, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.”

Because the House amended the bill, it now goes back to the Senate, which earlier approved it, 49-0.

APPRENTICESHIPS

The House also approved House File 2629 that included $32,000 to expand Reynolds’s Future Ready Iowa program by creating registered apprenticeship program under the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

It also increases funding for child care resources by matching state money with investments by employers to establish child care facilities.

Public comment was generally supportive. However, some schools, both public and non-public, suggested a requirement to expand computer science offerings would be an unfunded mandate.

Others asked for a delay in a requirement to add computer education classes because, as the Iowa Association of School Boards said, “districts are already challenged to provide alternative learning environments under the current situation.”

DHS and parents

Senate File 2182, approved 96-0, would create a pilot project in six counties — three rural and three urban — that would allow the state to appoint legal representation for parents involved in cases with the Department of Human Services before proceeding to the court system.

It is similar to an Iowa Legal Aid project in Waterloo that “appeared to be successful,” Rep. Dustin Hite, R-New Sharon, said.

The program would give parents “representation early on in the case, someone they can confide in, someone they don’t view as the opposition,” he said. The goal is to “keep families together ... and out of the court system.”

Reading help

Also approved was Senate File 2356 that directs the State Board of Education in collaboration with the Iowa Reading Research Center, to adopt rules for standards and procedures for the approval of teacher preparation programs by July 1, 2022.

It also requires the Department of Education to have at least one full-time equivalent position to provide guidance and assistance and creates the Iowa Dyslexia Board to oversee implementation of dyslexia instruction in Iowa and make recommendations for continued improvement on instruction.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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