The past couple weeks have been filled with subcommittee action, which is the first step in the legislative process every bill must go through. I will highlight a few interesting ones that may have flown under the radar for this week’s newsletter.
SSB 3092 – School Chaplains: This bill allows school districts to employ a chaplain to provide services and programs for students as directed by the school board. A school board must not require or coerce students into using the services or programs provided by the chaplain. I was surprised by the amount of attention this bill received and was also surprised this was not allowed already. There are many needs that schools have and most schools have a shortage of workers or volunteers to meet those needs. There are a wide range of services that local pastoral leaders have so I believe this is a great option for schools to utilize. We have chaplains for other governmental entities. It makes sense to allow them to serve schools as well.
SF 2003 – Immunization Exemption Notifications: No shots, no school is NOT true! This bill requires schools to follow Iowa Code 139a.8 and disclose to parents that medical and religious exceptions exist and are accepted at any licensed child care center, elementary or secondary school in Iowa. Currently, when parents read the newspaper, complete school registration, or look on social media, there is no parental transparency that vaccinations are not “required” to attend school if you have a medical or religious exception. I have also heard stories from parents that have received emails and letters from the school stating that your child must be vaccinated prior to a specific date or they will not able to attend school anymore. This bill will increase parental transparency and it will also reduce the work for school nurses by providing clarity to parents at the beginning of the school year what paperwork is accepted and therefore reduce the number of issues they will need to remediate prior to the annual audit.
SSB 3112 – School Properties: This is a personal bill of mine that I will be holding a subcommittee on next week that will address some complications that have sprung up this past year in regard to how schools get rid of properties they no longer desire to keep or maintain. I have heard reports that some public schools are refusing to sell their old buildings to existing accredited private schools for no good reasons and they would rather tear the buildings down than see another school use it. I do not think this is the best use of taxpayer dollars. My initial bill language will give private schools the first right of refusal to purchase these properties. I need to study this issue more, but one thing I enjoy about the legislative process is that when I file a bill on a topic, the right experts come to the table to discuss solutions.
AEAs will continue to be a topic for the near future. I have no new updates at this time except that I know for sure that no matter what reforms could be made, if you and your school like your AEA service, you will be able to keep your AEA service.