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BWK Newsletter: Missed Opportunities and reading retention update

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” 
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Missed opportunities
We reached an important deadline designed to narrow down the bills eligible for debate.  There are a few bills nearing consensus that are still alive, but every major issue that should have already been resolved is still being ignored by House Republicans.

Every step taken by the Iowa Senate to stop the Governor’s Medicaid privatization plan or at least provide meaningful oversight to hold these private profit-driven insurance companies accountable has been shunned by House Republicans. They delayed for weeks until this week’s deadline so they would not be eligible for consideration for the rest of session.

Unfortunately, House Republicans also used the funnel deadline to kill important education bills.  While still over a year late setting basic funding for public schools, House Republicans also killed two bills already approved by the Senate to set funding for public schools for the 2017-2018 school year.
Aside from education and health care, I’m disappointed a host of common sense bills also won’t become law this year. Several good bills approved by the Senate would help working families in Iowa such as raising the minimum wage, allowing new parents who are adopting to take time off from work, and making sure pregnant women are treated fairly in the workplace. Unfortunately, House Republicans refused to bring any of those bills up this session.

Update on third grade reading retention
In my February 19, 2016 newsletter, I wrote about the mistake we made mandating 3rd grade retention if a student is not reading at grade level. A small improvement to that mandate passed the House this week. Additional notices will now be provided to parents or guardians of a student who is not reading proficiently under the bill. It would also provide regular updates regarding the student’s progress in reading, not just an annual notice. The bill adds an at-risk category and clarifies that an additional alternative assessment would be provided to students.  The current assessment only tests for rate.

Iowa has an estimated 9,000 third graders that would be retained under the third grade retention law that starts in May 2017. This is an estimated 25% of the 38,000 third graders for the 2016-17 school year.

The bill ensures that other test option includes comprehension and vocabulary. This may decrease the actual numbers of students to be retained.  Either way, I continue to believe that the decision to retain should be between the parent, teacher and other education experts.