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As students return to the classroom, most local school budgets faced another year of belt tightening.
While state revenues grew by 4.9 percent over last year, Republican lawmakers increased state funding by just 1 percent this year, which is well below the cost of inflation. This makes eight of the last nine years of record low K-12 funding approved by the current legislative leadership.
Districts this year with the highest transportation costs will be provided assistance, but not long-term funding. Since some rural districts have a small number of students but geographically cover hundreds of square miles, they spend a large amount of their budget on transportation costs instead of in the classroom. They will have to wait until next year for a possible long-term solution.
Many of the significant reforms passed this legislative session will also not be effective until next year as well. This includes suicide prevention training, concussion protocols and school emergency operation plans to address school safety. Those trainings and protocols are not required to be in place until next school year.
Despite low performing online pilot programs, the current legislative leadership chose to expand online learning. The bill allows any school district to provide online courses through a private provider.
Students are allowed to open enroll with no cap on the number of students, however, students and parents have until March 1, 2019, to open enroll to a different district for next school year.
School lunch food shaming
One bi-partisan piece of legislation going into effect this year was the elimination of school lunch “food shaming.”
Iowa became the ninth known state at the time to pass a law protecting children for being disciplined for not having sufficient funds in their school lunch accounts.
Under the bill, the following actions are no longer being allowed as these actions humiliate or “shame” a student because they cannot pay for the meal, including the following:
• Requiring the student to consume the meal at a table set aside for students who owe a meal debt.
• Having a student discard a meal after it has been served.
• Requiring a student to wear a wrist band, hand stamp or other identifying marks, or do chores or work to pay for their meal.
• Denying participation in afterschool program or other extracurricular activities.
Voting restrictions in limbo
Saying it interferes with Iowans’ right to vote, a district court put a hold on new controversial early voting restrictions and misleading advertising by the Iowa Secretary of State.
The court blocked provisions of the legislation that included shortening the early voting period and increased regulations on absentee ballot requests. Voters will still be asked to show an ID in the November election but are not required to have one in order to vote.
The district court ruled that the state’s argument of providing more integrity to Iowa’s election fell flat because it failed to prove the “threat” that these new regulations would have solved.
The case was brought to court by an Iowa State student and the League of United Latin American Citizens. The ruling by the district court has been appealed by the Secretary of State and was heard by the Iowa Supreme Court on Aug. 9.