Herman Quirmbach

Herman Quirmbach

A bill that would have set “on or after August 23” as the school start date in Iowa has been tabled in the Iowa Senate.

On the 10th of March, 32 of the 50 members of the senate voted in favor of letting school boards decide when school starts in the fall. This afternoon, Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, asked his senate colleagues to vote in favor of that “local control” approach.

“I don’t see that our positions necessarily have changed,” Quirmbach said.

But when it came time to vote, a majority of senators sided with the House approach to set “on or after August 23” as the standard for a school start date. That prompted Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal to use a parliamentary maneuver which has tabled the bill. He’s not saying when it may be brought back up for a vote.

“I’m in no rush,” Gronstal said.

By an overwhelming vote on Tuesday, the House voted to set “on or after August 23” as the school start date. At the least, Gronstal said the House-backed plan should be adjusted, since as currently written it would prevent any Iowa high school from moving to a year-round calendar.

“We think that’s pretty crazy,” Gronstal told reporters.

Gronstal suggested there was “confusion” as to how many Republicans would side with Democrats in favor of “local control” so school boards may decide when school starts. Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock said it’s time to get this issue resolved.

“We’ve seen the Democrats stall and delay with respect to K-12 education long enough,” Dix told reporters. “They deserve some certainty…so they can plan and that’s what we ought to be doing on school funding as well.”

In December, Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s administration put schools on notice: no more waivers would be granted for early school start dates. Unless legislators fashion some sort of compromise Branstad will accept, it means schools will have to follow current law which says schools are to start during the week in which September 1 falls. That means August 31 would be the earliest date for school starts in Iowa this year.