Iowa Statehouse Dome SquareA non-partisan conflict between the Iowa House of Representatives and Iowa Senate over the future of the school start date has made for some strange allies.  The Democrat-majority Iowa Senate passed SF 227 on a 32 to 17 vote in bipartisan fashion with Democrats and Republicans voting both for and against.

Currently Iowa law states that a school can start no earlier than the week of September 1st or the week before if September 1st falls on a Sunday.  Schools were allowed to apply for waivers to start earlier and before those waivers were automatic, but Iowa Governor Terry Branstad asked the Iowa Department of Education to only grant waivers if the school districts could demonstrate having a later start would have a “significant negative educational impact.”

The Iowa Senate bill states that local school boards can make that decision “based on the best educational interests of students.”

State Senator Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton) who voted in favor of the bill said in her email newsletter on Thursday, “While I would love to keep my children home until after Labor Day, I believe it is important to support local control because the government closest to the people is also the government most accountable to them.”

The Senate version of the bill is supported by Iowa Association of School Boards, Iowa Association of Christian Schools, Iowa Catholic Conference, School Administrators of Iowa, AFSCME Council 61 and the Iowa State Education Association.  Opponents include include the Iowa Restaurant Association, the Iowa Lodging Association and the Travel Federation of Iowa.

The original Iowa House bill was similar to the Senate version.  It was amended in committee and filed as HF 307 and it bumps the school start date earlier to August 23rd.  A plan to amend the bill to provide for year-round schools will likely be offered.  The Iowa Association of School Boards, Iowa Association of Christian Schools, Iowa State Education Association, and School Administrators of Iowa oppose the House version.  While the Iowa Farm Bureau and Iowa State Fair support the House bill.

It is uncertain what support the House version of the bill has.  The Iowa House leadership this session seems to be unwilling to disappoint Branstad, the Iowa Farm Bureau or the business community.  Local control tends to be a Republican issue, but this year the Democrats may own it.  If the House version does pass the differences will have to be worked out in conference committee.

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