Dems: Education Committee Report – Week 6, 2018

February 19, 2018

SSB 3001 – Laws and rules included on Department of Education reports;
SSB 3088 – Removing state accreditation for community colleges;
SSB 3119 – Requires passing a civics test to graduate high school;
SSB 3120 – Public speech, public institutions;
SSB 3162 – Concurrent academic ineligibility for students;
SF 2046 – New tax credit for community college training in certain fields;
SF 2085 – Removing local decisions on awarding graduation credits;
SF 2160 – Abuse hotline posted in schools;
SF 2174 – Striking physical education requirement for K-8 in certain situations.


SSB 3001 requires the director of the Department of Education to cite the state or federal statute, rule or regulation necessitating the inclusion of information in any report the department requires a school district, area education agency, and accredited nonpublic school, or the officers or employees of such entities to submit. The Board of Regents and the Department spoke against this bill because they currently collaborate in data gathering that is integral to information on student career paths, retention and workforce. None of these are specifically required by Iowa Code or Rule, but are useful to many entities, including the Legislature and Governor.
[2/12: 10-4-1 (Yes: Danielson, Republicans; Pass: Quirmbach)]


SSB 3088 eliminates the state accreditation process for community colleges established by the State Board of Education and implemented by the Department of Education. The process was required to be integrated with the accreditation process of the Higher Learning Commission. The state accreditation process currently only happens once every 10 years, with a mid-review every five years. Two of the 15 community college presidents support this bill. The rest of the presidents do not support removing state accreditation. Community colleges would still be accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, which does not  review state standards or requirements. This bill raises concerns about the quality of key programs and measures that the state has prioritized.
[2/12: 9-6, party-line]


SSB 3119 requires students to pass the U.S.  Citizenship and Immigration civics test to graduate from high school. Individuals seeking a high school equivalency diploma must also pass such an examination.
[2/14: 10-5 (Yes: Danielson, Republicans)]


SSB 3120 relates to public forums, freedom of expression, and freedom of association at public community colleges and universities. This bill creates a new Code chapter requiring the boards governing the public postsecondary institutions to adopt a policy that includes statements describing the functions and rules of institutions with regard to learning; protected speech; the freedom to discuss issues within the limits of reasonable viewpoint-neutral and content-neutral restrictions on time, place and manner of expression; freedom to assemble and engage in spontaneous expressive activities that are not unlawful and do not disrupt the functioning of the institution; and public areas of campuses as traditional public forums.

A committee amendment addresses concerns of the Board of Regents, specifically that the bill would have required their whole campus to be a “public forum”; that it will require a judge to decide a person’s claimed sincerity; and that the University of Iowa is currently in litigation around some of these issues and the courts should decide its case before the Legislature acts.
[2/14: 14-1 (No: Hogg)]


SSB 3162 directs public schools and extracurricular interscholastic organizations and associations to make every reasonable effort to collaborate to ensure that when a student is deemed academically ineligible for participation in extracurricular interscholastic contests or competitions, the periods of the student’s academic ineligibility run concurrently. A committee amendment changes this bill that establishes a taskforce of all state extracurricular interscholastic organizations and associations with the requirement to address concurrent ineligibility and measures that prevent students form avoiding ineligibility by enrolling in a new activity.
[2/14: 15-0]


SF 2046 was amended by a strike-all amendment that creates a new tax credit for up to five years if a person goes to a community college, takes classes or graduates in a STEM field (as defined in the bill, and different than how Future Ready Iowa defines “high needs occupation”) and lives in Iowa for five years. The person doesn’t have to actually work in a STEM field to get the income tax credit equal to total tuition and fees. There are no income guidelines for tax credit eligibility. This bill will go to Ways and Means, where the cost of the proposal will be determined.
[2/14: 11-4 (No: Danielson, Hart, Hogg, Quirmbach)]


SF 2085 requires the school district or accredited nonpublic school to award high school credit to any student at any grade level who satisfactorily completes a high school-level unit of instruction satisfactorily. School administrators are against this. Christian schools are for it. A committee amendment allows the school district to only mandate credit if the credit hours were taken within their district. A school district will have the authority to deny graduation credit for any course taken outside their school district.
[2/14: 13-2 (No: Dvorsky, Hogg)]


SF 2160 requires all public schools to post at each attendance center in a clearly visible location in a public area readily accessible to students the phone number for the toll-free hotline  to report child abuse. The hotline is operated by the Department of Human Services.
[2/12: 15-0]


SF 2174 authorizes a student in grades one through 12 to be excused from the physical fitness requirements under the state’s educational standards if the student is engaging in physical fitness activity for at least two hours per week at a fitness club or other physical fitness or sports center that is approved by the school.
[2/12: 9-6, party-line]


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