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Legislative Report (Vol XXIV No 17) May 9, 2005 And On and On It Goes

May 13, 2005

Last week it was the Iowa House who took the week off to let the Senate decide what they were going to do with the budget. This week the Senate stayed home and the House came back to review what the Senate had accomplished. The House took action on several bills but majority republicans in the House continue to reject the compromise budget passed by the Senate. Until that is resolved the session will continue. At this writing there does not seem to be much movement toward a resolving of those differences.

Basically $25 million separates the two sides, with most of the money in the Senate-passed bill going to fund education programs including expanding preschools. Although the two budgets are only $2 million apart on funding for "teacher quality" there are differences -- the Senate passed bill provides $10 million to pay for one additional contract day and delays implementation of the second day and allocates $12 million for salary increases for experienced teachers and to maintain the minimum. The House plan requires the two additional days but provide only $17.8 million of the estimated $20 million cost. No additional funds would go toward salary increases for experienced teachers.

The Senate plan also eliminates the team-based variable pay component of the teacher compensation/teacher quality law, continues the stipends for National Board Certified Teachers and funds the mentoring/induction program for beginning teachers.

The House rejected the Senate version of the Education Appropriations on a party line vote thus setting up the need for a conference committee to meet to work out the differences.

Early Childhood

The other bill of consequence debated in the House this week was the early childhood bill. The Senate passed their version of the Early Childhood bill last week by striking the House version and writing a new one. The House version had the co-location language mandating that state level EC programs would be under one umbrella. The Senate version does not provide for co-location. It did have the following:

  • Tax Credit: Authorizes an early childhood tax credit for 25% of the first 1,000 spent on early childhood development expenses for children between the ages of 3-5, under the current tuition credit. Defines early childhood development expenses and caps the total credit at $5 million.
  • Community Empowerment: Gives the Empowerment Board and the Community Empowerment Office in the DOM the authority to work to facilitate early childhood care. Requires community empowerment areas, in assistance with the Empowerment Board and Empowerment Office, to take steps to report directly to the public. Requires the Empowerment Board to develop an internet system for distributing information, including early learning standards. Requires schools to test kindergartners for basic early literacy skills. Requires the appointment of an early child care coordinator and establishes duties for the coordinator.
  • Child Care: Establishes a voluntary child care rating system, with related provisions. Requires the new system to initially have five levels. Ends the current rating system but allows Gold Seal providers to continue to use that designation as long as the accreditation period lasts. Requires DHS to work on the system with the Community Empowerment Office.

The version passed by the House this week uses much of the Senate language, but makes changes as follows:

  • Tax Credits: Authorizes an early childhood tax credit for 25% of the first 1,000 spent on early childhood development expenses for children between the ages of 3-5, under the current tuition credit. Defines early childhood development expenses. Requires that the credits be prorated if the cap is reached. Effective January 2006 (Senate language) Caps the total credit at $2.5 million and makes the credit refundable. (House language). Allows taxpayers with Iowa net incomes up to $45,000 to take the federal child care tax credit. Authorizes 30% of the credit for those with incomes between $40,000 and $45,000. (House language--expected fiscal impact is $2.3 million.)
  • Community Empowerment: Keeps much of the Senate language, but adopts additional language on early care. Restores the House language on selecting members to the empowerment board (requires nominations from area boards). Gives the Empowerment Board and the Community Empowerment Office in the DOM the authority to work to facilitate early childhood care. Requires community empowerment areas, in assistance with the Empowerment Board and Empowerment Office, to take steps to report directly to the public. Requires the Empowerment Board to develop an internet system for distributing information, including early learning standards. Requires schools to test kindergartners for basic early literacy skills. Requires the appointment of an early child care coordinator and establishes duties for the coordinator. Includes language on integrating child care services between agencies rather than requiring co-location as in the original bill.
  • Child Care: Establishes a voluntary child care rating system, with related provisions. Strikes the five levels, but establishes criteria that can be used (facility type; provider staff experience, education, training, and credentials; facility director education and training; an environmental rating score; national accreditation; history of compliance; child-to-staff ratio; curriculum; business and other related practices) Ends the current rating system but allows Gold Seal providers to continue to use that designation as long as the accreditation period lasts. Requires DHS to work on the system with the Community Empowerment Office.

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