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Legislative Report (Vol. XXV No. 14) April 14, 2006

April 18, 2006

Interesting Week

What had been a slow moving drift toward adjournment got a jolt on Monday night of this week. In an unprecedented move Senate Republicans went into caucus Monday evening and came out with a new leader for the remainder of the session. By a one vote margin they ousted previous leader Stewart Iverson and replaced him with Mary Lundby. Lundby, who serves a district predominately in the Cedar Rapids-Marion area, is considered to be more moderate then Iverson.

Long time observers of the legislature cannot recall any instance in the past when a party leader had been replaced while the legislature was still in session. Lundby will replace Iverson in the current negotiations taking place to bring an end to the session. Since she will need to be brought up to speed with the negotiations that have already taken place the change may ultimately prolong the current talks. Lundby will also serve as co-majority leader in the evenly split Iowa Senate.

Issues Still on the Table

As negotiations continue to bring the session to an end we know that the issue of AEA funding restorations are still being discussed, but that is about all we can determine as the negotiations are being done in closed sessions. The talks are centered on both funding and policy issues. Some of the funding issues being discussed include:

  • Allowable Growth Factor for 2007-08;
  • Additional funding for teacher salaries;
  • Funding to expand early childhood education for eligible 4-year-olds;
  • Tax incentives for charitable contributions to nonpublic schools; and
  • Expanded tax credits for child care and early childhood education.

Some of the policy issues include demands by some for "reform" as a condition for investing more money in education. Some of the reform and other school policy changes that have been suggested include:

  • Providing "pay-for-performance" measured by student test scores or some other measure;
  • Providing additional pay for high school math and science teachers;
  • Converting the 180-day school calendar to an instructional hour requirement;
  • Setting a common starting date for schools no earlier than August 25 except for year-round schools;
  • Requiring the model PTA parent involvement policy and establishing parent liaison positions;
  • Establishing a state standards task force to review high school graduation requirements;
  • Adding career options to high school core curriculum plans for all students;
  • Providing state funding for some or all of the costs of Advanced Placement exams;
  • Expanding the teacher quality initiative to include school administrators; and
  • Reauthorizing incentives for whole-grade sharing and school district mergers.

Which of these, if any, will be in the final agreement remains to be seen.

Adjournment?

Negotiators are expected to use most of Monday to meet. A quick resolution of all issues is necessary to accomplish an adjournment by the end of the week. Even with an agreement the necessary mechanics needed to pass the remaining legislation will take time to accomplish. While adjournment by the end of the week is possible (and desirable), it is not probable unless agreement is reached sometime on Monday. The 100th day of the session and the day that per diems for legislators ends is April 18th.

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