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IPERS Tries to Ease Concerns About Frozen Assets - Page 4 PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 06 March 2009 14:48

Legislature Passes Dozens of Bills Out of Committee Ahead of "Funnel"

Dozens of bills moved through committee this week as Iowa House leaders treated this week as a de facto "funnel week," when all bills must clear at least one committee to remain alive for the remainder of the session.

Funnel week is officially next week, March 9 to 13. Bills that have not cleared at least one committee by next week Friday are considered to be dead for the remainder of the session. However, budget and tax bills are not subject to that deadline, and any issue can be revived with a leadership bill.

Among the bills approved, the House Education Committee voted 16-7 to change the earliest school start date to the fourth Monday in August. Representative Polly Bukta (D-Clinton) said the current law makes it too easy for schools to start classes earlier and earlier.

"There are no teeth in the bill in the present code for school districts to give a reason why they need a waiver," Bukta said. "Change is always difficult, and I understand that. I know this is controversial, but I do think it's in the best interest of the schools and the state."

The Iowa Association of School Boards and its members said they oppose the legislation, which they said would eliminate school districts' ability to select their own school start dates and set calendars that are most beneficial for their communities. Currently, Iowa law says classes can begin no sooner than the week of September 1, but most school districts get a waiver through the Iowa Department of Education and begin school in August.

"This is a local-control issue and should remain that way," said Sam Harding, Jefferson-Scranton school-board vice president. "One of the things I've heard repeatedly from the legislature over the past several years is that we should always be making our decisions based on the impact on student achievement based on research-based data. I don't think tourism or less air conditioning has any research that I know of that impacts student achievement."

Other bills approved include one that would establish and implement a statewide writing assessment for public-school students in grades three, six, and 10. That bill was approved 10-0 Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee. Another bill would require Iowa businesses to give a 30-day notice if they plan to lay off 25 or more full-time employees.