With the close of the Iowa Legislative session for 2021, a number of education related bills became laws.
Passed into Law: Diversity Training and Curriculum Bill
House File 802 A bill banning some mandatory diversity training concepts in K-12 and Regent Institutions was signed into law. The bill is framed as being opposed to diversity training that promotes stereotypes of sexist or racist people. There are implications for the curriculum through K-16.
- Training cannot state that the US or Iowa is fundamentally or systemically sexist or racist.
- Training cannot imply that anyone based on their gender, race, or other characteristics are inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive consciously or unconsciously.
- During training no one should experience psychological distress or discomfort because of their race or sex.
The concern with this bill is that it could be used to ban teaching of the 1619 project, as the language is vague and broad. The general sense is that this law prohibits discussion and education related to institutional and systemic racism.
Some public schools have cancelled equity training for teachers, staff, and coaches due to this bill. Faculty are unsure if they can continue teaching social justice content, as this might be viewed as divisive.
Passed into Law: Charter School Bill
House File 813 The bill creates:
- A new method for establishing charter schools in Iowa with or without the approval of a local school board.
There are currently two charter schools in Iowa, and the concern is that charter schools will funnel monies away from other public schools. Charter schools will still be part of the public school system but not necessarily accountable to local school boards. There are currently two proposed charter schools likely to move forward in Des Moines: Jordahl Academy and Starts Right Here Movement.
Passed into Law: School Choice Expansion Bill
House File 847 This bill relates to HF 813 and contains a large variety of education related provisions. There are a number of fiscal guidelines, the no mask mandate, and a requirement for charter school governance documents to be public domain. In addition, a new program for using Teacher Supplementary Salary and Teacher Leadership funds toward innovations in instruction was created and called the “Flexible Student and School Support Program”. In addition, “good cause” was expanded to include athletes wishing to open-enroll. A number of changes to tax credits for parents of children in private schools were also included as well as tax credits for teachers.
Passed into Law: Voluntary Diversity Plan
HF228 This bill eliminates the implementation of a voluntary diversity plan as a reason to deny open enrollment.
The budget for schools has been passed and set at 2.4% for public schools. Originally, Des Moines was going to receive less than other districts to account for two weeks of unapproved online instruction, but this did not get included in the final budget. The budget increase is less than likely needed due to lower enrollment numbers during the 2020-2021 school year. Administrators estimate that a 4% increase will actually be needed to cover expenses.