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New Iowa Law At Center Of School Re-Start Debate

Des Moines, Iowa (RI) — A bill that passed the legislature with overwhelming BIPARTISAN support has become a flashpoint in the debate over how schools should start this month. The bill, which is now law, says Iowa schools should develop plans for rigorous online courses — but the law goes on to say that unless Governor Reynolds grants an exception, a school shall not take action to provide instruction primarily through remote-learning.

(as said) “We might have to go online temporarily and we need to be ready to do that,” Reynolds says, “but I believe we all should do everything we can to get our kids back in school.”

Democrats like Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames say the law gives the governor authority to grant exceptions, but she’s just choosing to override local decisionmakers.

(as said) “She could have given local school boards the authority to say: ‘Our local conditions warrant us going 100% online.’ She did not do that,” Quirmbach says. “…They’re playing defense. They’ve made a bad decision. They’ve gotten a lot of bad feedback on it.”

Quirmbach says as school officials and parents criticize the new guidelines for when schools may shift to online instruction, the governor’s trying to shift the blame onto the legislature by citing this new law.

(as said) “If she were confident that she had made the right decision, she would just simply stand up and take credit for it,” Quirmbach says.

Republican Speaker Pat Grassley of New Hartford says the criticism is off base.

(as said) “It seems like all that’s going on right now is just political rhetoric, attacking the governor,” Grassley says. “Why don’t we focus that same amount of energy on how we’re going to make sure we can return to school and educate our kids in a responsible manner?” Grassley says, “Because I will tell you out here in rural Iowa…there’s an expectation from the parents to have their kids back at school.”

Republican Senator Amy Sinclair says the governor is following the plain text of the law.

(as said) “I don’t know why this is being used other than to make political hay,” Sinclair says. “…We should all be working together — school districts, legislators, governor’s office, executive branch, departments — we should all be working together to find the best way to educate Iowa’s children.”

Sinclair, who is from Allerton, is chair of the Senate Education Committee.

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