Bill carves out exemption for new school start date law

Schools 3By Bob Eschliman


A bill recently offered in the General Assembly is already proposing to carve out an exemption for the new school start date law.

Senate File 311, offered Wednesday by state Sen. Julian Garrett (R-Indianola), would exempt a school district or school district attendance center from the school start date limitation if maintains year-round school calendar. It also exempts that school district from the statutory school aid reduction penalty provision.

Some school districts provide year-round school at attendance centers in areas with high “at-risk student” populations. These are almost exclusively in larger school districts, such as Bettendorf, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, and Des Moines. Indianola, in Garrett’s district, also offers year-round classes at one of its elementary schools.

Fiscal years begin July 1, and as a result, most teaching and administrative contracts begin on that date in a given year, as well. Most “year-round” schools in Iowa begin their calendars in late July or early August, and end in June.

Proponents say year-round school improves retention by avoiding “summer brain drain.” They also says it can offer more opportunity for one-on-one tutoring, and can reduce class sizes and overcrowding when multiple tracks are used.

Opponents say year-round schooling limits opportunities for non-academic activities and “summer jobs.” It also limits the availability of the summer months for teachers’ professional development.

Proponents say it will allow for more stability in childcare, and for shorter durations, although the number of “break days” would essentially remain the same. Opponents, on the other hand, suggest it could cause bigger problems – and less parental involvement – when siblings are placed in different tracks.

The YMCA State Alliance, the Iowa State Education Association and the Iowa State Fair have all filed lobbyist declarations on SF 311. All three say they are “undecided” on the proposed legislation.