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Capitol highlights

March 6, 2015
By Rep. Tedd Gassman - Representing Iowa House District 7 , Estherville News

We held several sub-committee meetings this week in order to meet this weekend's funnel deadline. I chaired a sub-committee for HF 431 and HF 432 which further address the subject of student transportation costs and how to relieve the burden caused by school transportation. We also held a sub-committee on HSB 207 which requires the county treasurer to refuse to renew registration of any vehicles if the property taxes on the owner's mobile home are delinquent. The bill states that this rule applies unless an error is found, a period of pardon is issued, or if the current owner was not responsible for the delinquent taxes. A sub-committee was also held on HF 403 which prohibits the board of directors of an area education agency from selling or otherwise providing career and technical education professional development services, training, or materials to school districts or to practitioners employed by school districts. This bill will help insure that training efforts of collaborating schools takes place in school facilities instead of unauthorized locations. HF 403 has been put on hold for the remainder of this session, but it could come up in the future for further discussion.

This week the Education committee discussed HSB 39, which deals with subject of bullying in public schools. The bill passed committee and is now eligible to be debated on the House floor. I voted against this legislation because I have several concerns with the content, purpose and writing of the bill. One concern I have is where the allocated funds for anti-bully training programs will come from. We have mentioned time and time again that we are on a tight budget, and don't have the funds to appropriate for more new programs. In order to fund this bill, we would have to cut support somewhere else, and the big question is: where? Another problem I have with this bill is the long list of descriptions used to define bullying, and the fact that the passage of the bill begins and ends with "is not limited to". I'm wary of such a broad definition. I am also concerned about the investigation process. As the bill reads, officials "may" investigate, but are not required to. I believe there could be unforeseen consequences if a school decides not to investigate, and a lawsuit results. Finally, I have talked with all of the school districts in district 7, and no one has expressed a need for more legislation on this topic. The schools in the 7th district have expressed to me that they have adequate guidance to handle bullying situations. I do not think HSB 39 is necessary or helpful, and I do not support it in its current form.

Another piece of legislation which has received some attention is a bill about an Educational Savings Account. Although I am in favor of such an account, the current version of the bill has several flaws. For one, it only applies to the private school realm and fails to address homeschooling, which I believe we must do. The money issue is, yet again, an important factor. The total cost of the ESA would be about $200 million. Even if we were to add one grade each year the cost would be $15 million every year for 13 years. We have told people repeatedly that we do not have the money to expand government programs any further this year, and I continue to stand by that statement. Another thing to consider is that receiving state funds could have strings attached and lead to state regulation in the future. I hope to see similar legislation in the coming years that addresses my concerns, and then I will gladly support it.

One other bill that is being discussed in the legislature is HSB 173 which relates to the common core of Iowa. Currently, a test is being developed by the University of Iowa that I believe will meet our assessment needs just as well if not better than the SBAC, and will be considerably less expensive. At this point my allegiance will be to the University of Iowa's test. I need to look more closely at the SBAC and the University of Iowa's test before I make a final decision. One reason I am concerned is that this bill authorizes data collection that I believe is unnecessary. The only data that should be collected on students is academic data and vaccination records. Also, I believe we could greatly improve this bill by making provision for parents to exempt their child from this test by submitting an exemption request to the principle of the student's attendance center.



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