Senate Democrats want to force Iowa businesses to give employees who are parents up to 20 hours of unpaid leave each year so those parents can attend a child’s school activity. Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, says the research shows kids perform better when their parents are involved at school. McCoy says a 1997 National Education Statistic Center study found children are three times more likely to succeed in school if their parents are involved with the teachers in the classroom.
McCoy says his employer lets him take time off work to visit his six-year-old son’s classroom, attend parent/teacher conferences or go to school functions. McCoys says it gives him a great opportunity to connect with his son and his son’s teachers. Democrats in the Senate also want to forbid schools from letting teachers teach subjects for which they are not certified.
Senator Frank Wood, a Democrat from Eldridge, says the most important factor in a student’s success is that quality of their classroom teacher. “The best teachers are those who know their subjects inside and out,” Wood says. He says this requirement might be a hardship for small districts finding it tough to employ teachers who are certified in subjects like math and science. “We are working to increase state aid so school leaders are not forced to choose among various bad options when it comes to making their budgets,” Wood says. “One bad option towards balancing difficult budgets that should be removed from the table is having teachers teach subjects (for which) they are not certified.”
As they did last year, Democrats in the Senate are pushing a bill that would force Iowa school districts to write an anti-bullying policy that would forbid harassment based on a student’s race, religion or sexual orientation. Senator Brian Schoenjahn, a Democrat from Arlington, says a recent survey found 25 percent of teacher see nothing wrong with bullying or put-downs. “To do their best at learning, students must feel safe and welcome in the school building as well as the classroom,” Schoenjahn says. “Students who feel threatened or unsafe, for whatever reason, will not take full advantage of the educational opportunities offered them.”
And Democrats in the Senate want the state to spend just over seven million dollars more each year to help students who do not speak English well become more proficient. So-called “English Language Learners” would get five years of intensive help to become fluent in English rather than the three years of instruction that is current state practice.
Senate Co-President Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, says immigrants who don’t speak English are important to the state’s future. “If we’re going to grow our population in the near future, it’s got to be with new Iowans,” Kibbie says. “We need to help educate…and act like we’re a welcoming state to new Iowans.”