IOWA COUNCIL OF TEACHERS OF MATHEMATICS
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The 2020 Iowa legislative session ended on Sunday, June 14. It appears that PK-12 School Supplemental Aid (SSA) will increase by 2.3%, which was part of the budget approved before the break prompted by the pandemic. It was possible that this could change when the budget was revised due to the financial impact of Covid 19 in Iowa. The amount budgeted for Iowa’s Regents institutions was cut by $8M. I think this will be very stressful for UI, ISU and UNI and likely to affect the teacher education programs.
The other bills that were passed during the closing weeks of the session were not all that surprising; some of them are listed below. The surprise bill was HF 2359, which removes the requirement of an entry test to teacher education programs. This was discussed earlier in the session, but did not appear when the legislators resumed their work. Late one night, this was added to the agenda and passed with bipartisan support. Now, Teacher Education programs can decide not to require PRAXIS Core, the test currently used by most institutions in Iowa to gain entry to a teacher education program. If a program continues to require the entry test, data on who passes or not must be filed annually with the Department of Education. The effective date for this bill is July 1, 2020! This gives programs very little time to make a decision and communicate with program faculty, staff and students about the change. The Governor has not signed this or the other bills listed below yet, but is expected to sign them all soon.
SF 2310-Iowa Learning Online. The final version of this bill had lots and lots of additions and modifications at the last minute. To help implement this bill, the DE had a webinar that was recorded; it should be available now in the Department's COVID webpage if you want more information about this.
HF 2340 – Iowa 529 Plans. This allows Iowa 529 plan funds to be used for students’ to attend out-of-state elementary and secondary schools.
SF 2356 - Student Dyslexia. This bill requires programs leading to a Dyslexia Specialist endorsement be developed and positions created for people with this endorsement.
SF 2360 - Classroom Management. Like the Learning Online bill, this passed at the end of the session with many additions and modifications. Among other things, this establishes state-wide practices for working with students who are uncooperative or violent in classrooms.
HF 2443 - Senior Year Plus Proficiency Requirements for Concurrent Enrollment. Students need to demonstrate proficiency, based on standardized testing, college readiness measures or meet locally developed requirements to be eligible for concurrent enrollment.
HF 2629 - Future Ready Iowa. This is a very large and complex bill. Part of it codifies the K-12 computer science requirements that were expected.
For a complete list of bills waiting for the Governor’s signature, and a list of the session’s bills that were not voted on, check the Iowa Department of Education’s Legislative Update for June 15.
The news from the US Department of Education is not different from what I wrote about last time. There is some news about work being done to expand the use of vouchers, and increased support for private and charter schools. Threats of suspending funding for PK-12 schools that do not resume in person instruction in the fall have been made, but I have not seen legislative or policy action that would make this happen. The social unrest and pandemic that are happening at the same times means things will change. Check NCTM’s Advocacy and Legislative webpage, including the blogs there, to stay up to date on how our work might be impacted by the Federal government.
I have found it very difficult to write this update. The world has been challenged with a pandemic that threatens the lives and livelihoods of almost everyone. Moving classes and my committee work online abruptly was a huge challenge. I needed to find a way to do my job, be thoughtful about the lives and hardships faced by my students, while moving forward with the work already begun. Frankly, my concern and attention to the government activities related to mathematics education waned. This does not mean the government stopped doing things related to our work and the mathematics education of children in Iowa. Part of what I include here is dated, but may be picked up again once our government redefines what is normal and gets back to the work that was halted with the pandemic.
In response to the FY 2021 federal budget, filed in February, Robert Berry issued a statement regarding lack of support for mathematics education in the proposed budget. If you have not read the statement, dated February 12, 2020, be sure to read it now. The work on the federal budget for the next fiscal year has continued, with little attention or news about funding for education, teacher education and mathematics education. The pandemic has been important to focus on for our survival, but please do not forget that the challenges to education in our nation will increase. According to Berry, “The request that Congress eliminate more than $5.5 billion in education investments is short-sighted. And it does not reflect the much-needed increased attention on improving mathematics learning and achievement that is acknowledged by local, state and federal policymakers” (p. 1, 2020). It is important that we advocate for our profession now more than ever. To learn how you can do this, read one of Berry’s last blog posts, Advocacy: Let’s Work Together, as NCTM president where he describes NCTM’s recent advocacy work in Washington DC with tips on how you can extend NCTM’s reach locally.
The cuts to next year’s budget that concerned Berry appear to be moving forward. I have not seen recent reports on how this will affect the TEACH grants and their fulfillment challenges. There appears to be a bill in the House of Representatives to allow teachers with forgivable loans more time to fulfill their full time teaching requirement if it is interrupted due to their spouses military deployment. I hope that this is the beginning of making TEACH grants work for more educators. Recall that you can see a list of bills being debated in Congress at NCTM’s page for Advocacy and Legislation. There is also an email list you can join to get updates about federal legislation NCTM follows.
The current legislative session was suspended due to Covid-19. Before leaving, a provision for using online meetings and voting was not approved, so the work in Des Moines is on hold. I wonder if the bills not yet through the second funnel are dead. If the legislature reconvenes, they might continue to work on bills related to school vouchers and eliminating the entrance test requirement for Teacher Education programs. One of the last acts of the legislature was to grant the Governor emergency powers in their absence.
By now, your schools, colleges and universities have begun to make plans for Fall 2020. There continue to be many unknowns about what will actually happen when school begins again. If schools were required to close to face-to-face classes again, the Governor has promised to provide a 2-week notice. There is some Covid-19 federal funds coming to schools as part of the CARES act. Locally, this money will be used by public PK-12 schools starting May 13, 2020. The funds can be used by schools for expenses from March 2020 through September 2022. It is not entirely clear what the funds can be used for, but they can be used for nutrition, meals, at risk and drop out interventions, and Internet access. The CARES Act money for higher education will be used immediately to support students and student loans. A requirement of the CARES act is that public PK-12 and higher education maintain their average funding from the three previous fiscal years. The bill does allow the federal Education Secretary to waive this requirement if states face budget shortfalls in the future. If you want to learn more about the CARES Act funding, you can check the Institute for College Access and Success March blog post, where the bill is described in detail. Please note that my intention is not to endorse this organization, but I found their description of the CARES act helpful.
I will provide additional government updates this summer if needed. It has been an honor and my privilege to advocate for mathematics education by sharing this information. With the support of ICTM and Iowa AMTE’s executive boards, I have redefined the position of Government Liaison to include these updates. I have an appointed position on each board. It is time for me to begin to consider phasing out of some of the work I do, to make room for younger people who will continue after I retire. If you are interested in joining me for a year, where we would work together to follow state and federal governments, please contact me. I hope to find someone who can add to this work, so we can make sure we are part of the conversations in Washington DC with NCTM, and in Des Moines with the Iowa organizations. I can be reached by email at email@example.com.
This update will focus on state legislation, most of which is still being debated in committees. Recall that the Governor proposed that Supplemental School Aid (SSA) be increased by 2.1%. While being negotiated in committees, proposals were made to increase SSA to 2.5% and 3%. Both of these proposed increases are well under what several state organizations have called for to make public schools functional in Iowa. I believe the 3% increase is no longer viable, so the SSA funding for schools in the next fiscal year will be somewhere between 2.1% and 2.5%. While it is not required by law for school funding to be finalized by the end of February, the legislature tries to do this so school districts can make budgets for the upcoming year. If the debate over school funding takes longer, it puts school personnel in a difficult position when finalizing plans for the upcoming year.
Vouchers are again part of the conversations in Des Moines. A bill was filed, SF 2206, to allow state funds to be used to pay for children’s education in private schools. This was not successful in the last couple of years, but some in Des Moines are determined to make this happen. Currently, this is being debated in the Education Committee.
Two bills have been filed with implications for Teacher Education programs and the preparation of teachers.
SF 2207 would allow a private provider selected by the Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE) to offer a nontraditional educator prep pathway program, which would allow applicants who have a bachelor’s degree and complete a background check to teach. These teachers would start teaching immediately, with a special certificate authorizing them to be hired as a teacher in a school district or private school in IA. These teachers would be issued an interim license or interim endorsement by the BOEE. This means that your colleagues in K-12 classrooms may have no preparation for teaching other than a degree in something.
SF 3080 addressed how to help teachers work with students who might have violent outbursts in class. It is a very long bill, with lots of things that might be helpful for teachers, but at the end there is one small paragraph that includes a requirement for Teacher Education programs to prepare all, that is general education teachers, to write IEPs. If passed, this would have to be included in all our Educator Preparation Programs, which I think would be very difficult to do.
There have been some of the usual bills filed to continue the limits of collective bargaining, eliminate the Iowa Core, etc. These come up every year, but are not likely to make it out of committee and sent forward for a vote. I will try to let you know about what bills make it out of the first funnel where the set of active bills is reduced significantly. Then, there is a second funnel and only the bills that survive this are voted on during the session. The exception is the SSA funding bill, which is usually fast tracked to allow for schools to plan for the near future.
The 2020 session of Iowa’s legislature is now in session. To launch the work of the legislature, Governor Reynolds gave the State of the State. She shared information from her proposed budget for the 2021 fiscal year, including her call to increase funding to PK-12 schools by $103,000,000. This is about a 2.5% increase in funding and about the same as what Governor Reynolds had in her budget last year, which was reduced to a 2% increase by the legislature. How much money will go to public schools in the next fiscal year depends on the actions of our legislators, as they debate and revise the Governor’s budget. Several school districts have called for an increase of at least 4.5% to recover from recent cuts to public education in Iowa, which is unlikely. Note that State Law requires the funding of public schools be decided in the first 30 days of the legislative session, so we should know soon if school funding will increase and by how much.
Three bills have already been filed in the Iowa Senate. The content of these bills are: to continue funding the Iowa Learning Online Initiative, to allow students with a minor’s driving license to drive to other schools where sanctioned activities occur, and a bill requiring teacher education programs at colleges and universities to provide annual reports to the Department of Education on the passing rates and number of times new graduates take the end of program assessment or performance assessments. More bills and much debate will follow as the legislative session ramps up.
At the end of the 2019 legislative session, a bill was passed to allow junior and senior students enrolled in teacher education programs to serve as substitute teachers. The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE) operationalized the law, which was shared in a December update published for Superintendents. To be eligible for this authorization, teacher candidates need to be recommended by their teacher preparation programs as having “exemplary classroom readiness.” No other guidance was given to colleges or universities regarding how to determine exemplary classroom readiness. This bill went into effect during the fall semester of 2019. This means teacher preparation programs have had very little time to figure out how to decide what criteria to use to recommend their students for this authorization. It is likely some future teachers served as substitutes over the winter break, but teacher education programs are still catching up with the recommendation process.
The federal department of education is in the process of updating the TEACH grant program policy. This comes after criticism for the high rate of TEACH grants, about 1/3 are converted to loans. I read the proposed updates to TEACH grant program and did not find that they addressed many of the problems I have heard about from recipients of the grants. Public comments on the updates were due last week, unfortunately overlapping with the holidays. I know UNI’s comments were drafted by faculty and staff who advise our TEACH grant recipients, asking for changes in implementation and facilitation of the grants so they attract and support teachers. If the changes made in the Department of Education do not improve the program, we at UNI will work with our representatives to the federal government to lobby for changes in the Higher Education Act, which contains the TEACH grant, to require the federal department of education to improve its implementation. I will keep you posted on the progress of this work, since the need for more mathematics teachers is critical and we can advocate for our profession if needed.
NCTM has changed its webpage regarding their work in Washington DC. Now, you will see a list of current bills filed in the Senate or House related to the work of mathematics educators in the US. Instead of the monthly updates, there is a blog where more frequent and current updates are posted; its link is at the very bottom of the page. You can also sign up to receive updates in your email. NCTM’s 2019 Legislative Platform is now posted here, which is likely to be updated soon. In it, NCTM calls for “a faithful implementation of ESSA and support of its goals,” and “investments in mathematics educator preparation and research.” You can read the entire statement and track how it changes when the 2020 platform is released.
Iowa BOEE. (Dec. 2019). BOEE superintendent update. https://iowaboee.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/boee-supt.-meeting-notes-dec.-2019.january-2020.pdf
Iowa Legislature. (n.d.) Substitute authorization. https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/iac/rule/282.22.2.pdf
NCTM. (n.d.) Advocacy and Legislation. Retrieved from http://cqrcengage.com/nctm/?7.
NCTM. (n.d.) 2019 NCTM Legislative Platform. Retrieved from https://www.nctm.org/uploadedFiles/2019-NCTM-Legislative-Platform-Final%20.pdf .
The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) process is underway in Washington, DC. It appears that many of the accountability measures not included, but discussed last year will be included. For example, teacher education programs could be required to collect job placement and retention data for their alumni to use in reports regarding the efficacy of their programs. I wrote about this last year and encouraged people to let their federal representatives know that not only would this be burdensome and costly to colleges and universities, but that it is not a good measure of educator preparation program effectiveness. The bill to reauthorize HEA is likely to be filed this week.
You might have heard in various media outlets about the federal loan forgiveness and grant programs not functioning nicely. For example, some teachers fulfilled the requirements that should result in all their student loans being forgiven have found that their loans were not paid. Additionally, TEACH have been converted to high interest loans for trivial reasons, like not entering the January date with 01, but 1. UNI is working with several professional organizations and a consortium of institutions to educate members of Congress, and get noticed in a way that results in change. This work is in its initial stages, I will let you know how it proceeds.
Work in Des Moines is just beginning to ramp up in anticipation of the next legislative session. It appears that increasing the number of charter schools and allowing state tax money to be used to fund private schools will be pursued once again. One of the first cases heard in the nation’s Supreme Court will be Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, where state tax credits were used to fund scholarships for students to attend private schools in Montana. This is considered one of the most important cases for K-12 education in years.
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