IOWA COUNCIL OF TEACHERS OF MATHEMATICS
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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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