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Local

NCSD school board tables legislative priorities

Members want a full quorum before action is taken

Berg Middle School students leave campus on the last day of the 2018-19 school year. The Newton Community School District Board of Education agreed to table its legislative priorities discussion when a full quorum is present. Only four board members attended the Monday night meeting.
Berg Middle School students leave campus on the last day of the 2018-19 school year. The Newton Community School District Board of Education agreed to table its legislative priorities discussion when a full quorum is present. Only four board members attended the Monday night meeting.

With three board members absent from Monday night’s meeting, the Newton Community School District Board of Education tabled a discussion and action item that would set new legislative priorities for 2020.

Board members Josh Cantu, Cody Muhs and Travis Padget were not in attendance. The remaining quorum decided all seven members should be present to determine these legislative priorities, agreeing that it will be placed on a subsequent agenda.

“I say let’s put this back on the agenda next meeting,” Robyn Friedman, school board president, said. “We should all come in with some ideas.”

From the little discussion that was had on the topic, it seems NCSD school board members will possibly bring in their top four or five legislative priorities to propel the future conversation forward. Although its priorities list was not created, the school board did listen in on legislative changes impacting education this year.

NCSD Superintendent Bob Callaghan provided a summary of education-related bills that had been signed into law this past year by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

High school students will now be required to enroll in a half-unit, financial literacy course if they are graduating in 2021 or beyond. Previously, that course was going to be required for the 2018-19 graduating class, but Callaghan said schools were given two years to comply with the new conditions.

Conflict of interest rules for district employees serving on the school board have also been changed. The payment threshold — which was once set at $2,500 — has now increased to $6,000 per fiscal year. Callaghan noted this has already been discussed and changed in school board policy.

A bill allows public and accredited nonpublic schools to offer online learning, which Callaghan said will help WEST Academy in particular. Whistle blower protections have now been solidified. State supplemental aid for fiscal year 2020 is set at 2.06 percent, which the board was already aware of.

Callaghan noted any new school buses that are purchased by the district must have seatbelts equipped. Curt Roorda, NCSD transportation supervisor, has been researching data for the school board regarding the cost for retrofitting the current fleet of school buses with seatbelts.

Reynolds signed a bill extending Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) and penny sales tax for school infrastructure, which according to her website, “is projected to generate a total of $26.2 billion between 2019 and 2051.”

A House File requires schools to put siblings in the same classroom if the parents so choose. Another demands school districts report misconduct on employees, which Callaghan said Newton has already been doing. One other file also creates a children’s mental health system.

“There was quite a bit of discussion in the legislature about the mental health systems and the lack of facilities and support for, specifically, children,” Callaghan said.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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