Iowa open enrollment deadline eliminated with new law signed by governor | Govt-and-politics

ERIN MURPHY Courier Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES — Students can apply to open enroll to another public school district at any point in the year under a new law approved Tuesday by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

It was among three bills Reynolds signed into law Tuesday, completing her work on all legislation that was passed this year by state lawmakers.

The elimination of the previous March 1 deadline for an open enrollment request was one of the last pieces of legislation approved during the session, after it became apparent that the majority Republicans did not have enough votes to pass Reynolds’ so-called school choice bill, which included a program that would have diverted state funding for public schools to private school tuition assistance.

The March 1 deadline for open enrollment requests was put in place so school districts could plan for how many students they will have the following school year. And the previous state law included exemptions to the deadline for students who faced issues like bullying.

Jack Whitver, the Republican Senate majority leader from Ankeny, said recently on Iowa PBS’ “Iowa Press” that Republicans felt removing the deadline was an important aspect of their school choice agenda.

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Whitver cited recent policies codified by the Linn-Mar School District to protect transgender students from discrimination. Some parents upset by the policies, which had been in place in practice in the district for years, requested and were granted a private meeting with Reynolds and US Rep. Ashley Hinson, both Republicans.

“Really anything the parents find that they don’t like about that school (could be a reason for an open enrollment request),” Whitver said on “Iowa Press.” “Obviously one of the high profile ones is what was going on in Marion when they rolled out a transgender policy shortly after that March 1 deadline. Parents are saying, ‘What is our alternative?’ And we don’t think there is one. So we wanted to open that up. But that’s just one (reason). It could be anything.”

School officials and Democrats who opposed the proposal warned that it would make it more difficult for districts to plan for the following school year.

The measure was included in the Legislature’s standings bill, which is a catch-all budget and policy bill that is often one of the last to be approved during a legislative session.

This year’s standings bill, House File 2589, also contained a new ban on private funding for local elections operations.

That provision was created in response to the reported $419 million in grants funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that were designed to help election officials operate the 2020 elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. Scott County ($286,870) and Black Hawk County ($267,500) received grants in 2020, according to court documents produced after a group sued the counties — unsuccessfully — over the grants.

“I do not believe that there should be conservative, wealthy people doing that. And I do not believe there should be liberal, wealthy people doing that,” Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton and chairman of the Iowa House’s state government committee, said during the session. “I’m not comfortable, and I have yet to encounter anybody that can give me a reasonable counter debate on why private dollars with, in my opinion, special political interests in mind should be able to contribute directly to the election officials conducting their business “

Other bills

Small artisanal butchers that produce custom meats will get some help from the state in legislation signed into law by Reynolds.

The new law is the result of recommendations made by a state task force that was convened last year to study ways the state could help small butchers.

Small butchers in Iowa have said they are dealing with increased demand by consumers seeking artisanal and custom meats — often from farm-to-table producers — and are beset with supply chain issues caused by disruption in commercial meat processing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the new law, the state will create a one-year artisanal butchery certificate program for community colleges to offer. The state education department is instructed to compile resources for meat processing plants that include information on an existing butchery grant program, apprenticeships and internships, and worker training and development.

The legislation, House File 2470, was approved unanimously by state lawmakers.

“By signing (the bill), we are building on years of efforts to support our small meat processors in Iowa. This bill is a win for Iowa’s livestock producers, our agriculture industry and our entire state,” Reynolds said in a statement to the bureau. “It strengthens the partnership between our community colleges and Departments of Education, Workforce Development and Agriculture to provide much-needed support to Iowa’s local meat lockers and butchery programs.”

Reynolds also signed into law Tuesday House File 2581, which contains myriad programs under the state agriculture department.

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