2021 Legislative Beliefs
Public education is the foundation of our democratic society and the key to successful futures for Iowa children. Quality public schools strengthen our communities and are the cornerstone of any sound economic development policy. The state must put public education first and provide sufficient funding and support services. The state should provide full funding to public schools to meet the evolving needs of public school students before additional financial support of nonpublic schools is provided.
All schools that receive any public funds, including property taxes, state aid or federal monies, should be subject to the same governance and educational standards as public school districts.
The promise of public education is for every child to succeed. As locally elected leaders, school boards are uniquely positioned to set expectations for educational equity, ensuring that each child is given supports and interventions based on need. Educational equity requires that discriminatory practices, barriers, prejudices, and beliefs be identified and eradicated. Leaders must hold themselves accountable for deliberate actions, including the examination of policies and practices, intentional allocation of resources according to student need, support for rigorous curriculum and instruction, and engagement of families and communities.
Iowa has one of the finest public educational systems in the United States. The federal government, governor, General Assembly, Iowa Department of Education, school boards, professional educators and the public should strive to keep it strong. There must be a proper balance of state and federal control designed to ensure quality and a standard of education for all students, with local control which allows local school boards flexibility and decision-making authority to innovate and adapt to local needs and community values.
School districts are governed by boards that, as elected representatives, must be responsive and responsible to the citizens of the school district. Citizen involvement is the key to our representative form of government.
Local boards are, within the guidelines established by state law, vested with the authority to make the final decision on matters pertaining to a school district, area education agency (AEA) or community college. Local board members, who are closely connected to students, families and the communities in which they live, are best capable of understanding student needs and identifying effective solutions. The statutory duties and responsibilities of the local board cannot be delegated to persons who are not elected by the voters of the school district.
Locally elected school boards must have control over the content and management of their educational program, including the calendar and the flexibility for innovation and decision-making. A leadership team composed of the superintendent, principals and supervisory personnel working with the board is necessary for the efficient operation of the school district.
Iowa law provides sufficient choice through public charter schools, open enrollment, home school assistance, postsecondary enrollment options and nonpublic school alternatives. Additional investments in tax credits for nonpublic tuition or other options are not necessary to provide educational choice.
SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS
Through original research and a close evaluation of highly effective board practices across the country, IASB recognizes the following five essential roles of effective school boards and encourages all Iowa board members to incorporate these principles in carrying out the mission of education in their communities:
Setting Clear, High Expectations: The board sets a vision which expresses a commitment to high expectations, consistently communicates the expectations, sets clear and focused goals and focuses on improving instruction.
Creating the Conditions that Support Successful Teaching and Learning: The board creates the conditions for success by showing commitment via board actions, resource allocations and system alignment; provides quality, research-based professional development for educators; builds commitment and focus throughout the system and stays the course, solving problems along the way so improvements have time to work.
Holding the System Accountable for Student Success: The board uses data and monitoring to hold the system accountable and to make decisions at the board table; identifies clear, understandable indicators that the board will accept as evidence of progress and success; and supports and monitors progress regularly at the board table with staff leaders.
Building Collective Will: Within the school staff and throughout the community, the board creates widespread awareness and urgency of the improvement required to meet students’ needs, instills hope that it’s possible to change, and connects with and engages the community in a frank and ongoing effort to encourage each facet to fulfill its responsibility.
Learning Together as a Board/Superintendent Team: The board establishes board learning time around school improvement efforts, engages in deep conversations about the implications of learning, builds a trusting and supportive relationship with the superintendent, and leads thoughtful policy development.
Participation in the democratic process is integral to the success of schools. School districts have a responsibility for promoting more community involvement in the election process to foster better-informed citizens and greater ownership in public education. Student achievement should drive decisions that impact school elections.
In keeping with the principles of democracy, IASB is committed to the concept of each vote having equal value and a simple majority vote as sufficient to determine election or taxation decisions.
School board elections should coincide with the opening of school. Due to boundary differences and to help maintain the nonpartisan status of school board elections, they should be separate from any other election.
School board members should be elected in a non-partisan manner in which decisions are based on the best interest of the school and students without regard to party affiliation. Boards should have less than a majority of board members elected in any one year.
School boards should have flexibility to determine when special elections are necessary and to schedule these to best suit the district’s needs.
IOWA ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL BOARDS
IASB is committed to statewide leadership to ensure high achievement for all Iowa students. IASB recognizes that school boards are in a strategic position to bring about continuous improvement in public education through governance, public policies and advocacy.
We believe that IASB is the organization most appropriate to deliver training and board development to school board members about their role and responsibilities to contribute to high student achievement.
SCHOOL DISTRICT ORGANIZATION
School boards, and the residents of the school districts involved, have the primary responsibility to determine the makeup and boundaries of school districts and attendance centers.
The school board and the citizens of a school district assess the quality and extent of its educational program and determine whether the school district continues to operate within its present geographical boundaries.
In order to reduce costs and maintain or enrich quality education, IASB encourages school districts to share administrators, teachers, equipment, facilities and transportation, including the scheduling of joint classes and extracurricular activities. Sharing does not necessarily lead to eventual reorganization.
IASB believes school district reorganization, dissolution or sharing may be in the best interest of Iowa’s public school students when:
The best interest of students is the most important factor considered.
The reorganization or dissolution is voluntary—initiated and voted upon by the citizens of the school districts involved.
The state offers sufficient incentives to make the reorganization or sharing financially attractive to the school districts involved.
Geographical issues are considered, including minimizing the amount of travel time by students and allowing for continued community participation by the communities involved.
PUBLIC RECORDS AND OPEN MEETINGS
Every citizen has the right to examine and copy all public records. The news media may publish public records, unless the law expressly limits the right or requires public records to be kept confidential.
The schools belong to the people - the citizens and taxpayers of the school district. The public has the right to know what decisions are being made regarding the education of their young people and the expenditure of their tax dollars. School districts should have the ability to determine the method of public notice dissemination that maximizes public access to records at a minimal cost to the district.
Although it may not always be easy to publicly consider and discuss some of the tough issues confronting school boards, school boards should be responsive to the open meetings and public records policy established in state law. Compliance with the intent of the public records and open meetings law is best achieved through education, training and consistent enforcement.
School finance decisions, whether at the local, state or federal level, should put student achievement first in all decisions. Iowa’s school funding system must provide all Iowa children an equal opportunity to a quality public school education. The funding system must recognize that a high-quality public education is the first and foremost economic engine of our state.
A sufficient funding system provides equitable, sufficient, predictable and timely funding, based on these foundational principles:
Equity: Iowa should fund public education with a student-driven formula, ensuring Iowans that the education of each student is supported equitably. The formula must provide sufficient revenue to cover the actual cost of the educational program, including on-time funding for districts experiencing increasing enrollment. The state should allow school districts with declining enrollment to maintain sufficient funding so the school district can adjust operations to meet student needs. The state should minimize the disparity for property taxpayers due to variances in property valuation per pupil.
Excellence and Opportunity: School finance must provide for continuous improvement of classroom instruction and promote excellence. A critical attribute of increasing the achievement of all children is the skill level of teachers and administrators in the school. Therefore, the school funding system must provide for the professional training and development of teachers and administrators, and school improvement that will promote Iowa as a national leader in public education.
Stability: The school funding system must continue to be a fair balance between property taxes, which are a stable and reliable revenue source, and other revenue sources. Iowa school boards are grateful for categorical funds but encourage the state to provide resources through the funding formula to maximize local flexibility and provide growth through an equity-based system. School districts should have spending authority for any reduction in state funding.
Efficiency: A diverse system of school finance helps schools control costs. To ensure well-managed and efficient schools, the school funding system must encourage cooperative ventures and the pooling of resources and services. The school funding system must address increased costs due to inflation and other economic factors.
Local Control: State funding must support local control. Locally elected school boards should have the authority to utilize and allocate funding to best meet the needs of students. If the state decides to intervene in local education policy, any mandated changes, particularly those taking energy and focus away from real comprehensive school improvement and student achievement, must be fully funded by the state without a shift from other education resources.
The state has a role to ensure that all Iowa public school students have equitable access to high-quality educational programs, provided in safe, efficient, accessible, and technology-ready facilities that promote student learning.
Revenues from the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) fund provide school districts with a stable, long-term, and equitable funding stream for infrastructure purposes and should not be negatively altered or discontinued.
EDUCATION’S ROLE IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Growth focused on economic stability, wealth creation, entrepreneurship and knowledge-based enterprises is a vital objective for the state of Iowa. Our public schools contribute to the growth of Iowa’s economy through the education and development of our children and by providing good jobs. Our public school districts are often the largest employer in many Iowa communities.
A quality public education system is both a key factor contributing to Iowa's quality of life and is a critical attractor of business to Iowa. While education contributes to Iowa's economy, it is also dependent upon economic growth for securing sufficient financial resources to provide quality education services.
Public education and economic growth are interdependent. It is therefore imperative that Iowa invest in viable and sustainable economic development and foster partnerships between education and the private sector.
Collaboration between public schools and the business community can enhance students’ knowledge of career paths and future employment opportunities.
EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS AND ACCOUNTABILITY
It is the responsibility of local school boards to ensure that all students are educated for success in a 21st-century global society. Collaboration between Pre-K-12 and postsecondary institutions should be encouraged to help increase student opportunities.
School boards must ensure that their district operates from clear, measurable student learning standards and improvement goals; sufficient resources are allocated to improve instruction; and there is public accountability for improved results for students.
It is appropriate for the state to establish high and rigorous educational standards for the accreditation of public and nonpublic schools. Standards should be designed to ensure that all students have the opportunity to receive the educational program that meets their needs. The students of Iowa who attend public and nonpublic schools should receive their education instruction from licensed teachers. All public school accreditation standards must also be applied to nonpublic schools.
Data collection and reporting is necessary to improve instruction and increase student achievement. Data collection and reporting is valuable when:
It is possible to accurately determine student achievement gains, gaps between subgroups and level of attainment for all students;
Purposes are clearly understood and worthy;
Assessments are aligned with the intended purposes;
Results are easily accessible to maximize school district use of the information to provide quality professional development and improve instruction; and,
Results lend themselves to widespread understanding and evaluation by all school stakeholders.
The state or federal government must not use single-source data to issue sanctions, make generalizations about student performance or shift resources away from schools that require support to improve learning.
Iowa school districts should have the opportunity to comply with standards using various structures and mediums, including sharing and interactive telecommunications.
IASB supports assessment systems that measure student growth for all students, also known as value-added growth or gain, to improve student outcomes by driving professional development, teacher and administrator evaluation, and school improvement decisions.
Technology is an important tool in providing a quality education. School districts must have equitable access to technology. Access includes provision of hardware and software, technological support staff and access to a variety of Internet, broadband and network services including the Iowa Communications Network (ICN).
Administration of the ICN should continue to prioritize educational access above other users. The state has a role in ensuring equitable access to technology and should provide sufficient resources to purchase technology, support school technology plans and include professional development for educators on how to use technology to improve instruction and student outcomes.
Exposure to education in the first years of life is critical, and young children have an innate desire to learn. That desire can be supported or undermined by early experiences.
Research indicates that high-quality early childhood education promotes intellectual, language, mathematical, physical, social, emotional and creative development, cultivates a child’s curiosity and desire to learn, and builds a strong foundation for later academic and social success. The state plays a critical role by defining and supporting quality early childhood education programs.
All students can achieve at high levels when the state, local school boards and communities provide resources and support to ensure each child’s success in school. It is the responsibility of school boards to meet the needs of every student. It is the responsibility of parents/guardians and communities to work collaboratively with school districts to meet the needs of every student.
IASB believes that schools must be a safe environment for all students, staff and visitors.
Each member of the school and community must take a holistic approach to school safety by providing schools with resources, quality leadership, and united support for the development of a locally determined approach to ensure a safe and secure learning environment for all children. IASB supports a comprehensive view of safety that considers threats such as:
- Crime and violence;
- Hazards such as natural disasters or accidents;
- Health risks such as pandemics; and
- Internal threats such as bullying, unintentional biases and adverse childhood experiences.
Security planning efforts must include prevention, preparedness, mitigation, and response efforts. These planning efforts must be practiced, evaluated and updated on an ongoing basis. All individuals in the school community must be well-trained and knowledgeable of the best practices in school safety.
While all members of the school community benefit from accurate and timely information on safety efforts, school boards must have the authority to maintain appropriate levels of confidentiality to protect security plans and measures.
IASB believes, and research confirms, that teacher quality is the most important factor in determining a child’s academic success.
It is the responsibility of the school board through the superintendent and administrators to ensure teachers in their district are qualified for the job they are hired to do. School boards have the authority to set high performance standards and expect demonstrated academic and instructional excellence from their teachers.
Therefore, boards need to ensure teachers, as a part of their job, continuously and collaboratively study content, instruction and the effect on students based upon identified student needs.
It is a board responsibility to expect and confirm that the district is fully implementing the Iowa Core Standards and Iowa Professional Development Model for the purpose of improving instruction measured by improved student achievement.
Quality teaching is essential to high student achievement. In order to recruit the best and the brightest teachers into Iowa and the profession, keep the best and the brightest teachers we now have, and increase respect for the profession that most impacts our children’s future, IASB strongly advocates for school funding levels sufficient to pay competitive wages. In addition, IASB believes school boards must focus on ensuring a school culture that supports engaging educators in decision making, providing teachers with leadership opportunities and professional development, and exploring compensation and evaluation systems designed to enhance performance and retention.
EDUCATOR PREPARATION AND LICENSURE
IASB supports improved alignment between teacher preparation and the PK-12 education systems. Preparation programs should be evaluated continually with the objective of providing training that reflects innovative and proven education methods designed to assess and maximize student achievement. Student needs must drive preparation programs. School boards, teacher preparation institutions, and the state must cooperate to ensure teachers obtain the knowledge and skills they need to teach to ensure all children can learn. Educators should be prepared to effectively teach the wide variety of students in Iowa classrooms. All Iowa educators must have the appropriate licensure, endorsements and accreditation from the board of educational examiners.
School employees must be accountable for raising student achievement. An objective evaluation of all employees, performed on a regular basis, benefits the employee and the community and assists students in obtaining a quality education. IASB supports the right of school boards to exercise their authority to set standards of performance and establish rules of conduct for all employees.
Administrators or their designees must have the authority and resources to evaluate personnel whom they supervise.
EMPLOYEE RELATIONS AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
Positive labor relations enhance the ability of employees and school boards to work together for improved student achievement. Ideally, collective bargaining should end in a voluntary settlement between parties.
School boards should be guaranteed sufficient management rights necessary to operate the school district efficiently and effectively.
The results of collective bargaining should be to:
- Advance excellence and equity in public education with the outcome of improved student achievement for all.
- Reflect sound research and proven best practices with a demonstrated positive impact on improving student achievement.
- Promote accountability by all for improved student outcomes.
- Include a regular evaluation of the impact of changes on student achievement.
- Preserve the constitutionally protected due process rights of school boards.
- Promote safe, healthy, effective and respectful work environments for students and staff.
It is important to establish employee benefits necessary to attract and retain qualified employees. Benefits paid and contribution rates should maintain the actuarial soundness and affordability of employee benefit programs.
Unemployment compensation benefits should be reserved for those who experience sudden and unexpected job loss. It should not be extended between academic terms to employees who have contracts for less than 12 months or who have reasonable assurance of continued employment.
Substitute employees should not be eligible for unemployment compensation.
School district employees whose employment is terminated because of a reduction or realignment of staff, or for other reasons that would qualify them for unemployment compensation benefits, should be eligible to receive such benefits on the same basis as employees in private sector employment.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
A State Board of Education, made up of laypersons, determines and adopts necessary rules and regulations for the proper enforcement and execution of the provisions of school laws, and adopts and prescribes standards for carrying out the provisions of the school laws. The State Board of Education must seek advice and counsel from a broad range of citizens and educational organizations in the formulation of rules and policies.
The Department of Education (DE) plays a significant role in facilitating school improvement efforts and supporting school districts, area education agencies and community colleges.
The DE should cooperate with IASB, area education agencies, community colleges, the federal government and state to streamline requests for information.
The DE should consider other student achievement measures, such as value-added or growth measures, for all students, in defining and negotiating the Iowa plan for school district compliance with federal requirements.
By its very nature, the DE is a state regulatory agency; however, Congress and the General Assembly should carefully consider the number and size of the regulatory tasks assigned to the DE and financially support the tasks assigned, including the provision of sufficient staff.
AREA EDUCATION AGENCIES
Area education agencies (AEAs) are highly important in helping develop curriculum. AEA assistance to local schools in the areas of emerging technology, professional development and curriculum assessment is of vital importance to assist schools with the mandates of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
AEAs are established to provide school districts with specified services in special education, media and other educational areas. Apart from special education, the Legislature and the Department of Education must not require these agencies to perform services that are regulatory in nature.
AEAs must retain their primary function as support agencies for local school districts, including developing and delivering services and programs to support local school improvement plans.
School improvement is a key strategy to meeting economic, political and societal needs. AEAs can assist public schools with career development and transitions to facilitate business/community collaborations offering further opportunities for students.
The governance structure of AEAs must continue to be tied closely to PK-12 public school districts with students who receive the benefits of AEA services. AEAs should not be merged with community colleges. Directors of PK-12 school boards should continue to elect AEA directors.
AEAs should be assured of equitable, consistent and timely funding and receive adequate funding for mandated programs and services.
Community colleges are an integral part of public education and are strong partners with Pre-K-12 schools in the delivery of career and technical education and of enhanced educational offerings at the high school level through concurrent enrollment. As such, they must be funded by both state and local sources in a consistent and equitable manner.
Generally, IASB opposes a centralization of decision making on local and state educational issues in the federal bureaucracy and the United States Congress. Iowa citizens have the ability and desire to make decisions affecting the education of their young people. IASB urges Congress, the President of the United States and the U.S. Department of Education to support local control of school districts, continue the commitment to local flexibility, and reward local efforts to improve student achievement. If the federal government decides to intervene in state and local education policy, any mandated changes, particularly those taking energy and focus away from real comprehensive school improvement and student achievement, must be fully funded by federal dollars without a shift from other education resources.
Iowa schools should receive the federal commitment to help with the cost of educating students with special education needs combined with the federal support equal to other states, based on student needs, to maintain our level of educational excellence. The federal government should not impose intrusive or unnecessarily restrictive or prescriptive laws governing our community schools.