Per pupil funding, requiring livestreaming of classrooms on Iowa Capitol docket

DES MOINES — An array of education-related bills will be under consideration at the Iowa Capitol today.

The Senate is tentatively scheduled to debate a bill that would increase per pupil spending on Iowa’s public schools by 2.25%, slightly less than Governor Reynolds recommended. Senator Jackie Smith, a Democrat from Sioux City, said it isn’t enough to address the workforce crisis in Iowa’s K-12 public schools.

“School districts across Iowa have thousands of open positions,” Smith said during yesterday’s Senate Appropriations Committee meeting. “…Districts need more money to attract, hire and retain more staff and pay more attractive wages.”

Smith cited a report showing Iowa ranks 40th in per pupil spending. Senator Julian Garrett, a Republican from Indianola, said there are other ways to evaluate the state investment.

“As a rule, when you take into account cost of living, Iowa’s more or less in the middle as far as education funding and teacher salaries,” Garrett said.

House Republicans are proposing a 2.5% increase in the state’s per pupil allocation to K-through-12 schools and plan to debate it Thursday. Republican Representative Cecil Dolecheck of Mount Ayr said Republicans have been careful not to overpromise.

“That we can be guaranteed to school districts that we will provide every dollar to the education system that we have promised,” Dolecheck said, “never go back on those promises.”

The Senate’s also scheduled to debate a “parent’s bill of rights” today that would require schools to get parental consent before a student could access content that could be considered obscene. There will be a subcommittee hearing in the House on a bill that would force Iowa schools to install cameras so every class could be livestreamed and monitored by parents. House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights said Republicans are villainizing teachers.

“They are giving the impression that teachers need to be watched all the time, that teachers can’t be trusted, that teachers are enemies,” Konfrst said during a weekend appearance on Iowa PBS. “…Let’s thank teachers. They’ve been working their tails off the last two years and they’re burned out.”

Another bill to be discussed at the Capitol today would require the Iowa and Iowa State football teams to play one another each year. It’s scheduled for initial review in a House subcommittee at noon.