Senate adds music, applied arts to Iowa Core Curriculum

Schools 3By Bob Eschliman


The Iowa Senate was quickly and quietly moving through a slate of more than a dozen bills Wednesday when state Sen. Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames) offered up a bill to add new subjects to the Iowa Core Curriculum.

Senate File 431 is an act to add music and other applied fine arts to the Iowa Core Curriculum. It was adopted Wednesday evening on a 26-23 party line vote following considerable debate over the bill and three proposed amendments.

State Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), a staunch critic of the Common Core State Standards and the Iowa Core Curriculum offshoot of it, offered an amendment to completely repeal the core curriculum provisions of Iowa Code.

He offered a brief “history lesson” on the implementation of Common Core, of which he considers Iowa Core to be a part of, and concluded with a summary of the complaints he has received from constituents. Many of them, he said, are frustrated they cannot help their children with basic mathematics anymore.

To illustrate his point, he discussed this video (scroll down), which has made the rounds on social media, and has been passed around via email.



“Still to this day, we have yet to see any quantifiable evidence that Common Core has resulted in improved test scores,” he said. “I recognize has just been fully implemented, but we have the best teachers in the world right here in Iowa, some of them serving in this chamber. The problem here is with a mandated curriculum, and the data mining, which we don’t even know where all that goes.”

Quirmbach made a point of order regarding the germaneness of Zaun’s amendment. Senate President Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque) found it to be well taken, since the amendment went “far beyond the scope” of the original bill.

Quirmbach then presented his own amendment, which he said made nonsubstantive changes to the wording of the original bill. Those amendments were adopted on a voice vote without debate.

State Sen. Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa) then offered an amendment that would add firearm and hunter safety to the Iowa Core Curriculum. Noting he is “opposed to standardizing some subjects,” and “standardizing free expression,” he said it was important that students be taught responsible use of firearms, as they used to be, in public school classrooms.

Quirmbach agreed about the importance of firearm training, but said he felt adding it to the bill as a “last-minute addition” would be “disrespectful of subject matter,” and the nearly three years’ of work that went into crafting the bill. He suggested adding the firearms and hunter training should take a similar amount of time to develop curriculum standards and coursework.

“There is no requirement to teach firearms or hunter safety in the [Iowa] Code as there is for music and art,” he said. “It would involve several years, and tens of millions of dollars to put into place. The [Iowa Department of Natural Resources] is already meeting that need through the training programs it offers throughout the state.”

Chelgren responded, prior to withdrawing his amendment, that he didn’t see any reason why the DNR or NRA couldn’t start coming into public school classrooms immediately. He said they are currently not welcome in schools, despite the need for a “proactive stance about hunter safety and firearm safety.”

He concluded he hoped the Senate could work together to find a way to provide that training in public schools.

During debate of the amended SF 431, Chelgren said he was opposed to efforts that would standardize free expression.

“Art is a personal expression, a creation of the imagination,” he said. “All of the things that make art wonderful are what cannot be taught or standardized. We can teach technique, but we cannot teach art as a standardized process.”

Standardized art curricula, he added, would result in standardized art that “we probably couldn’t call art.”

State Sen. Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton) said she was largely supportive of process to add art to the Iowa Core Curriculum. She said “elevating art” to the same stature as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math was “perfect” to her.

Her opposition to SF 431 dealt largely with the financial aspects of the proposed legislation. She said she had sat down with Legislative Services Agency staff who said the fiscal impact of the bill to the state budget would be $30 million over two years, with additional “unquantifiable” impacts, which she called “unfunded mandates,” on local school districts.

State Sen. Bill Dotzler (D-Waterloo) said adding applied arts to the Iowa Core Curriculum was “more than touchy-feely,” that it was about innovation. He said he was “very excited” about the proposed legislation.

“We need to put the A in STEM – it’s STEAM – to bring extra energy to education in Iowa,” he said. “We need more STEAM all the way through our school system.”

In his closing comments, Quirmbach praised his colleagues for an “interesting, creative discussion.” In response to Chelgren, he said creativity needs to be cultivated, but how the foundation is laid is important.

“Basic skills create the platform,” he said. “Exposure to great works of the past can inspire the great works of future.”

To Sinclair, Quirmbach said the latest fiscal note from the LSA showed a one-time budgetary impact of $135,000 to pay for a consultant during the first year of implementation. He said the cost at local levels would be most likely in the form of professional development to become aligned with the new core curriculum, which he said was covered by state appropriations.


CLICK HERE to see full video of today’s action in the Senate.


GPS Tracking

The Senate also took up Senate File 416 – an act to prohibit the authorized use of global positioning tracking devices – which it unanimously adopted. The bill was briefly debated by its floor manager, state Sen. Liz Mathis (D-Robins) and state Sen. Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa), who said he was concerned it did not “go far enough to protect personal liberties.”


Caucusing and Gambling

Senators also adopted Senate File 437 – which allows employees up to four hours of time off to attend presidential precinct caucuses – on a 26-24 party line vote. Senate File 438 – which requires the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to study exchange wagering – was adopted without debate on a 32-18 vote.


Smooth Sailing

The Senate also adopted the following bills by unanimous, or nearly unanimous, votes:

  • Senate File 123 – an act to prohibit the sale of powdered liquor, adopted 48-2.
  • Senate File 199 – an act to amend campaign finance disclosure laws in accordance with discrepancies noted by a federal court, adopted 50-0.
  • Senate File 292 – an act to amend Iowa Code as it relates to the confidentiality of certain juvenile court records, adopted 50-0.
  • Senate File 407 – an act to allow cities with civil service commissions to permit employees to reside outside the state, adopted 50-0.
  • Senate File 434 – an act to amend Iowa Code as it relates to continuing education requirements for licensed barbers, adopted 49-0.
  • Senate File 435 – an act to allow public entities to charge fees for converting files from its regularly used format to a format requested as part of an open records law inquiry, adopted 50-0.
  • Senate File 441 – an act to require the Iowa Department of Health to assess and report to the General Assembly on the health workforce development programs under the purview of the Oral and Health Delivery Systems Bureau, adopted 50-0.
  • Senate File 449 – an act to amend Iowa Code as it relates to procedures and requirements for condemning property and disposing of certain condemned property, adopted 50-0.
  • Senate File 452 – an act to amend Iowa Code as it relates to Medicaid program transformation and oversight, adopted 50-0.
  • Senate File 463 – an act to amend Iowa Code as it relates to redesign of the state’s mental health and developmental disabilities services administered by regions comprised of counties, adopted 50-0.