Thursday, April 10, 2008

Other education bills still awaiting action

Here's a brief summary of where other education-related issues now stand:

Funding 'roll-in.' SF 2329, a bill to roll funding for four important categorical programs -- teacher salaries, class size reduction, Phase II, and professional development -- into the school aid formula is still awaiting action by the full House. This measure is critical in order to preserve these programs and to provide growth to keep pace with inflation.

Community colleges. HF 2679, the bill which includes funding for community colleges, has cleared the House Appropriations Committee and is now awaiting action on the House floor. It provides $6.5 million for community college general aid and $1 million for community faculty salaries. In addition, the bill mandates that all faculty meet minimum hiring standards and are part of the quality faculty plans. Faculty are also included in several parts of the bill giving them a voice with the Department of Education regarding accreditation, professional development, and other significant issues. While the funding levels are an improvement, there isn’t enough money to raise community college faculty salaries to 25th in the nation. Click here to read all the ISEA community college legislative initiatives for 2008, and click here to listen to episode 22 of the ISEA In Focus podcast series featuring ISEA Higher Education Standing Committee Chair Lee Skeens.

Senior Year Plus. The "Senior Year Plus" program proposed by Gov. Culver has been rolled into the Department of Education appropriations bill, HSB 787. This measure would provide for more oversight and coordination between existing high school programs like concurrent courses (formerly known as dual-enrollment), post-secondary enrollment options, and AP courses. The ISEA supports this bill because it requires the incorporation of best practices in teaching. The bill also sets eligibility requirements for students, teachers/instructors, and the institutions before a course can be offered.

Statewide penny tax. HF 2663, a controversial bill that would eliminate the local option sales tax and replace it with a statewide penny tax earmarked for school infrastructure or property tax relief, was approved yesterday by the House. While the ISEA supports the concept of a penny tax, we strongly oppose HF 2663 as it is currently written because it doesn't give local school districts the spending flexibility they need to meet student needs. Click here to read a statement by ISEA President Linda Nelson.

Core curriculum. The future is uncertain for SF 2216, a bill to require school districts to adopt the now-voluntary core curriculum after the House last week filed amendments to create new core standards and student performance standards. This would force the state to create new assessments at an estimated cost of more than $50 million. The ISEA strongly opposes the amendment. The measure is likely to go to a joint House-Senate conference committee. To learn more about the core curriculum, tune in to episode 23 of the ISEA In Focus podcast series featuring an interview with Department of Education Director Judy Jeffrey.

National Board Certification stipends. Despite repeated efforts by the ISEA and the Department of Education, the version of HF 2680 which passed out of the House Education Committee does not reinstate support for newly Board Certified teachers. The Legislature last year required teachers to be registered to take part in the rigorous National Board Certification process by Dec. 31, 2007, in order to be eligible for reimbursement of fees and to receive a stipend of $2,500 a year for ten years. The bill is awaiting action in the House.

Area Education Agency budgets. Funding for the AEAs won't be determined until the end of the session, but it appears that the Legislature will approve the Governor’s recommendation to restore $2.75 million that was previously cut. AEAs will also benefit from SF 2329, the funding "roll-in" bill.

IPERS. SF 2373, has passed out of the Senate State Government Committee and has been referred to Appropriations. It includes language allowing the actuary to set the IPERS contribution rate beginning in July of 2011 after the current statutory increase of 2 percent is fully implemented. In addition, the bill would limit the number of 403b vendors that a school district can use.

ESP salaries. ISEA lobbyists are continuing to work to get language included in the education appropriations bill making it a state goal to provide a competitive living wage to all public employees. Please contact your representatives in the House and urge them to include this language in the Education Appropriations Bill, HF 2679. To learn more about living wage campaigns, listen to episode 21 of the ISEA In Focus podcast series.