The Forest City school board set its legislative priorities for the 2023 session of the Iowa Legislature at the July 11 school board meeting. The Forest City school board participated this year in the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) legislative policy process by talking about the impact of state policy on the district and voting on legislative resolutions for the next legislative session. Each school board prioritizes up to four resolutions.
The school board determined that the following priorities for 2023 are critical to students and taxpayers in the school district:
● Supplemental State Aid — Supports setting supplemental state aid:
○ At a rate that sufficiently supports local districts’ efforts to plan, create and sustain world-class schools;
○ Within the statutory requirements to allow districts to make sound financial decisions on programs, staffing levels, and providing the best possible education to all students;
○ That supports a formula-driven method for establishing the supplemental state aid growth rate if it is not set within the statutory requirements;
○ For FY 2023 and future budget years, at least 14 months prior to the certification of the school’s district budgets.
● School Choice:
○ Iowa law provides sufficient choice through public charter schools, open enrollment, home school assistance, postsecondary enrollment options and nonpublic school alternatives;
○ Public funds require public accountability and transparency. Public schools are overseen by a publicly elected citizen governing board, are required to report academic results to the general public, have an annual public financial audit, and be transparent with all expenditures and decision-making. Private and religious schools are not held to that same public standard. Taxpayers have a right to know how their funds are being used, but are left in the dark about the use and impact of voucher funds;
○ Taxpayers without children lose their say over how their tax dollars are spent. Public schools have publicly elected school boards and public meetings. Private schools are not held to the same standard;
○ A slippery slope toward a costly and expansive voucher program: This voucher program may start small, but as we’ve seen in other states, once a program is established, it is easy to expand. This will pull more resources away from public schools;
○ Don’t use taxpayer dollars to subsidize private religious schools. The public’s investment should be used to support public community schools that are open to all students regardless of race, religion, gender, socio-economic status and disability, not for a new entitlement program for parents who choose private education;
○ Additional tax credits are not necessary to provide educational choice.
● Teacher Recruitment & Licensure — Supports additional tools to attract individuals to the teaching profession, especially for teacher shortage areas including:
○ Alternative teaching licensure upon completion of research-based teaching pedagogy training in addition to content knowledge in a curricular area;
○ Pathways for individuals with non-traditional educational backgrounds to meet licensure qualifications;
○ Reciprocity agreements with other states with high-quality education programs so as to increase diversity among our certified teachers and administrators;
○ Expansion of programs such as: Teach Iowa Scholar, Troops to Teachers, Teacher Intern;
○ Programs designed to recruit teachers that will better match the demographic makeup of our student population;
○ Advocate for funding of forgiveness programs and grants that will make education careers a viable option.
● Mental Health: Supports efforts to establish comprehensive community mental health systems to offer preventative and treatment services and comprehensive school mental health programs that include:
○ In-school and telehealth access for students to mental health professionals;
○ Creation of a categorical funding stream designated for mental health professionals;
○ Reimbursement by Medicaid and Private insurers for in-school services;
○ Ongoing teacher, administrator, and support staff training to improve the awareness and understanding of child emotional and mental health needs;
○ Integration of suicide prevention and coping skills into existing curriculum;
○ Expanding state-funded loan forgiveness programs to include mental health professionals who agree to provide services to schools;
○ An ongoing mental health resources clearinghouse for schools and community providers.
The grassroots IASB legislative process involves all school board members in Iowa. Together, school leaders make a difference. Resolutions submitted by school districts will be reviewed by the IASB Board of Directors before being debated and adopted by the IASB Delegate Assembly at its annual meeting on November 16 in Des Moines. A board member will represent the district at the meeting