The Iowa Legislature yesterday afternoon approved significant education liberty items when the Iowa House voted 91-0 and the Iowa Senate 40-10 to pass the conference committee report released by the joint House-Senate education reform conference committee. Governor Terry Branstad is expected to sign the legislation.
In particular was the landmark home education deregulation that sends Iowa from being a state with moderate regulation (3rd tier, only three states have worse laws) to one of the best according to criteria given by the Home School Legal Defense Association. The specific home education measures approved by the Iowa Legislature are:
Optional reporting under Competent Private Instruction. Home schooling families are no longer required to submit Competent Private Instruction forms (CPI) or assessments to their local school district. They can if they like, but they don’t have to. Families can still participate in dual enrollment or home school assistance programs (HSAP) if they like.
Independent Private Instruction – This eliminates annual reporting to the state, but also allows up to four unrelated students to participate in home schooling.
Parent-taught Drivers Instruction – Parents are no long required to send their children to drivers education, but can teach their children themselves if they prefer.
Bill Gustoff, the Legislative Liaison for the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, said, “The passage of House File 215 marks the beginning of a new era of home school freedom in Iowa. Home school parents will be able to teach their children in the one subject that still required certified instruction outside the home – driver education. It also removes barriers and costs for those desiring to educate their children at home. Not only does it affirm that parents have a right to oversee the education of their children, but it will now be possible and easier for foster parents, single mothers and fathers, and other modern-day families to use this great educational option.”
Non-public schools also had an important measure that was approved with this bill.
Independent Accreditation for Non-Public Schools - This allows a non-public school to seek third party accreditation and still benefit from the school tuition organizations (people who donate get tax credits), transportation reimbursement, textbook reimbursement fund for non-religious text books, AEA support (cost sharing for media, professional developed, etc.). Prior to this to receive these benefits schools had to be accredited through the Iowa Department of Education which then opened these schools up to mandates – like having to adopt the Iowa Core (which is aligned to the Common Core). This frees accredited non-public schools from this and other requirements placed upon them by the State. The Senate Democrats during negotiations did add a seven-year sunset, but I believe it will be renewed as non-public schools will be able to prove that this works.
Brian L”Heureux, President of the Iowa Association of Christian Schools addressed the independent accreditation measure and how it impacts schools he represents, “We are extremely pleased that, after many years of effort and prayers, we were able to see this passed as part of the Education Reform package this year! Independent Accreditation will allow us to choose the accrediting body that meets the needs of our schools, and will allow us to serve our students with accrediting partners that understand our unique role and mission as Christian non-public schools. We are blessed to have Eric Goranson as a lobbyist.”
The House Republicans were able to keep all of the provisions they had asked for in negotiations. In return they agreed to 4% allowable growth in the 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 school years and raised the minimum salary for teachers to $33,500.
Regardless of those provisions Republicans celebrated the bill. “The Republican Party of Iowa is proud to have taken a bold stand for our platform in advocating that advancing educational freedom be a non-negotiable part of any discussion of comprehensive education reform,” said A.J. Spiker, Iowa GOP Chair.
Iowa GOP Co-Chair, David Fischer, added, “The Republican Party of Iowa is committed to advancing our conservative principles as reflected in our platform. Education freedom is a foundational part of our platform and we were proud to play a role in advocating for non-public education alternatives to be made simpler and more affordable for Iowa families. We know competition and a free market is what rewards excellence and innovation and will result in the best outcomes for Iowa’s kids.”