Education Reform Passes Out of Committee

Tuesday evening the House Education Committee passed House Study Bill 517, the Governor’s Education Reform bill. Following a lengthy subcommittee and committee process that began in mid-January, the bill moved to the full House by a vote of 12-11.

There were 29 amendments to the bill in committee, the vast majority of which were brought by the minority party and were withdrawn after brief comments. In the end, seven of the amendments were passed either in a bipartisan manner or by voice vote. Only three failed, by a record vote, all of which were party-line.

Much of the original bill remained intact at the end of committee. Not much new language was added, but a lot was struck from the bill by the committee amendments. Those changes include:

Division I – Competency Based Education
This division was struck and replaced with a task force to study how a competency based instruction model can be integrated into Iowa classrooms. Currently school districts who want to can submit to the DE for a waiver to begin competency based instruction in their districts; the new language extends that waiver.

Division II – Core Curriculum and Content Standards
The only change in this section was striking “character education” from the extended Iowa Core subjects.

Division IV – Teacher and Administrator Performance
This division remained largely intact; however, the recommendations of the task force on teacher evaluations must now be approved by the legislature before being adopted into rules.

Division VI – Online Learning
Following much recent press on online program expansion in the state, the committee wanted to be cautious with further expansion. An amendment was adopted in committee striking this section and reemphasizing in code that online learning cannot be the sole method of a child’s education and that students enrolled in online course will only receive homeschool assistance funding, or .3 weighting.

Division VII – Educational Standards Exemptions
This division received a minor change to make public and nonpublic schools equal in terms of standards exemptions they are eligible for.

Division IX – Class Sharing Agreements
This division was expanded slightly to allow for broader competency for students enrolling in concurrent enrollment career technical courses.

Division XII – Assessments
Changes to this division included striking the requirement that all districts must comply with state standards, striking the use of the international PISA exam as a required exam every three years, and striking the requirement that all juniors take the ACT exam. Instead all juniors can take either the ACT or a career-readiness exam, as they choose.

Division XIV – Educator Employment and Professional Development Matters
All language in the bill regarding teacher contracts and teacher termination were removed, with the exception of language denying districts the ability to use seniority-based layoffs. Additionally, language requiring districts to adopt a state-wide professional development plan was struck, making it optional for school districts.

Division XV – Charter School Changes
This division saw minor changes, including striking language keeping charter schools from having a Home School Assistance Program.

Division XVI – Third Grade Literacy
The only change in this division was delaying the implementation date of retention, to allow for school districts to get systems of support in place for future students.

The following divisions were struck in their entirety:
– Division III – Parent Advocacy Network
– Division VIII – Educator Identifier System and Education Placement Clearinghouse
– Division X – State Board of Education Licensure Provisions

And the following were left untouched
– Division V – Innovation Acceleration Program – Fund
– Division XI – School Instructional Time Task Force
– Division XIII – National Board Certification

On the other side of the legislature, the Senate is currently moving its own Education Reform initiative that it introduced on Monday. The Senate did not take up the Governor’s 125 page bill and instead has crafted its own 29 page bill. There is some overlap between the Governor’s proposal and that of the Senate, but large differences exist. The Senate bill will likely see movement out of committee this week.

The House’s version will now move to the House Calendar for consideration on the House Floor at a later date. The committee members on Tuesday night expressed much interest in continuing to discuss the bill and will be bringing forward additional ideas to floor debate.