The 25 Republicans in the Iowa Senate want to change the state standard for the length of the school year from 180 days to an equivalent number of “contact” hours in the classroom.

Republican Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti of Ankeny says schools releasing classes early because of excessive heat or winter weather too often count half a day as a full day of instruction, and that’s cheating students out of hours in the classroom. “We believe that it does matter how much time that children spend in the classroom,” Lamberti says.

Lamberti says school districts would use a simple formula: take the number of classroom hours in a typical school day and multiple that by 180 to come up with the total number of hours required in a school year. “It seems to us and I think to most parents in Iowa that a half day is a half day. It should not be counted as a full day,” Lamberti says. “By converting to hours, we’re going to make sure our kids are getting the number of hours of education in a year that I think their parents expect.”

The Senate Republicans also plan to push to freeze property taxes for some elderly Iowans. Their proposal would freeze the property taxes elderly Iowans who earn less than 45-thousand dollars a year pay on their homes, but not other property.

Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny, admits it’s their proposal for the 2006 legislative session is not as grand as their property tax reform plans this past year. “Of course we were talking last year about an overhaul of the entire property tax system which really didn’t go very far,” Lamberti says. “That’s part of the reason why we wanted to identify a piece of this that we thought is doable rather than trying to overhaul the entire system because that’s unlikely to happen.”

Lamberti says it might help keep some elderly Iowans in their own homes. Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Clarion could not say how many elderly Iowans who own their home and pay property taxes on that house earn less than 45-thousand dollars a year and would qualify for the property tax freeze. “There’s many seniors in the state of Iowa (who) literally have to pick and choose between trying to pay their taxes or their prescriptions or their food,” Iverson says. “We just think this makes some sense to do that for those individuals (who) need help.”

The ideas the G-O-P senators suggest must win the endorsement of at least one Democrat to clear the 50-member state senate which is equally divided with 25 Republicans and 25 Democrats.