Capital Clicks

House advances governor’s education transparency proposal, relaxes some requirements

By: - March 24, 2022 4:50 pm

The Iowa State Capitol. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

An amended version of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ school transparency proposal would require teachers to post all their lesson plans and educational material online for parents to review, but it relaxes the timeline to do so, allowing educators to upload some material on an ongoing basis.

House File 2499 contains only the transparency and social studies instruction provisions of Reynolds’ education bill. Under the initial version of the bill, school districts were mandated to publish a full syllabus for each class, including a list of “all textbooks, books, articles, videos, and other educational materials used for student instruction.” That complete list would be updated just twice to cover the whole school year: once when classes begin in August, and again in January.

A nonpartisan fiscal analysis of the bill found the requirement would cost school districts $27.4 million to give teachers time to prepare and post their curriculum.

The House Appropriations Committee amended the bill Thursday to change the transparency requirements for teachers. Rather than post a several-months-long list, educators may invite parents to view the class materials through a regularly updated Google Classroom or Canvas page. Rep. Garrett Gobble, R-Ankeny, said many of the core curriculum items, like class novels or textbooks, would still be listed at the beginning of the school year, but the change will allow more flexibility for day-to-day lessons.

Rep. Phil Thompson said the adjustments reflect “best practices” already in place at some school districts.

“This amendment protects the ability for teachers to implement dynamic teaching plans and continue to provide transparency for parents,” Thompson, R-Boone, said.

Democrats voted against the bill in committee. Rep. Tracy Ehlert, D-Cedar Rapids, raised concerns the bill does not do enough to address contingencies like the long-term absence of a teacher or more flexible special education lesson plans.

Lobbyists representing school groups declined to comment Thursday on the most recent version of the legislation. The bill is eligible for floor debate in the House.

School transparency has been a major theme for Reynolds and Republican leaders throughout the session. Some Senate proposals, including the “Parent Bill of Rights” and the controversial plan to impose criminal penalties for teachers who distribute inappropriate content, died in the second legislative funnel, but may return in another form before the session ends.

The governor’s proposal to create private school scholarships for public school students has also stalled in the House and Senate but may move forward in upcoming weeks.

Amendment to HF2499

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.