January 2020 Government Update by Catherine Miller, UNI

1 Jan 2020 12:00 AM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

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

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