Sharing plan passed
Several attendees from local school districts at Saturday’s Legislative Briefing came to hear what the legislators had to say about education reform in Iowa.
Dr. Mike Jorgensen, Washington Community School District superintendent, said he liked pieces of both the bills proposed by the Senate and the House.
“Obviously the 4 percent of the allowable growth from the Senate is great but the property tax relief on the House side is also very good,” Jorgensen said. “I hope I’ll see a compromise and see both of those pieces in it.”
Jorgensen said he liked the part of the house bill that included the shared operations.
“WACO is taking advantage of that,” Jorgensen said. “Keota is taking advantage of that, so certainly in this area that’s a very important part of the bill.”
Another thing Jorgensen said he would like to see left alone is the school start dates.
“Leave that as a local control issue,” he said. “Kids do not do well in school in June. June is not a time to educate kids. They need to be done prior to June first.”
Rep. Jarad Klein of House District 89 said the weighted-sharing incentive passed last Wednesday.
“If I remember right, there were 70 or 71 votes for it,” Klein said. “There is support from the other party which I think is significant.”
Klein said there were some concerns about the shared incentive and whether or not it would work. However, he is optimistic that it will move forward.
“Going forward it will give us more certainty as we get back the Senate version of education reform and try to make it work,” he said. “There are a number of us in the House that have issues very close to our hearts.”
Klein said he has been keeping the smaller school districts, like Tri-County Community School District, in mind when voting on education reform.
Sen. Sandra Greiner of District 45 asked Klein for clarification on the hours versus the days school schedule proposal from the House.
“It changes it from the counting of days to the counting of hours of instructional time,” Klein said. “I believe the final number of hours was 1,080 a year, which will equal out to about 6.5 hours a day of instructional time.”
Klein said how exactly the hours of instructional time will be counted will be left up to the schools.
“I believe with the hours it’s going to give us some flexibility,” Klein said. “I think we’re getting closer to a point of where our locals have the authority that they used to have. I think that’s a good thing.”
Greiner said she hoped that the districts would let their representatives know how they felt about the hours versus days proposal so they could vote reflecting that.
“On the hours versus days it does give the school districts some flexibility,” Jorgensen said. “It actually requires an additional half an hour than what we currently require but most schools are already operating on a six-and-a-half hour instructional day anyway. “
Jorgensen said he could see where having instructional hours could be difficult. He said this year was one example because of the late starts and early dismissals due to the weather.
Jorgensen said the hours would benefit students because if there was a snow day and enough instructional hours were built up, then the district may not have to make it up.
Representative Dave Heaton from House District 89 said he has been told that the hour versus days isn’t something new.
“Our people from Council Bluffs informed us that Nebraska has been doing this for a long time,” he said. “It’s not something new.”