DES MOINES, Iowa – State Senator Jackie Smith, D-Sioux City, attacked Iowa’s homeschooling law during debate on SF 548, a bill that updates and clarifies the Iowa Code regarding private instruction and parent-taught drivers’ education.
She acknowledged that the legislation does not expand homeschooling or changes any of their reporting requirements but opposed the bill because it didn’t address regulating homeschoolers.
Smith also insinuated that homeschooling deregulation might be contributing to human trafficking.
“I find this gives me a little bit of heartburn. I am worried as, I guess, (as an) educator, as a parent, when we have kids, that we don’t know what they’re being taught. We don’t know if they’re safe. We had a human trafficking bill earlier today. I hope they will look at if this is, you know, something that might be contributing to human trafficking,” she stated.
She erroneously addressed the parent-taught drivers’ education section of the bill.
“(It) eliminates classroom hours, it changes what is taught, you know, for public school students. And it also and this is one we can’t really figure out why it would eliminate substance abuse and railroad crossing safety.”
The bill does not eliminate substance abuse and railroad cross safety as subjects to be covered. The legislation removes references to hours spent on subjects since homeschooling students take the courses online and not in a classroom. SF 546 also does not change what is taught for public school students.
The legislation also clarifies the distinction between Competent Private Instruction (CPI) and Independent Private Instruction (IPI), two options for homeschooling in the state. It also changed reporting and evaluation dates for CPI students due to changes made with the state’s assessment.
When the Iowa Legislature passed parent-taught drivers’ education the bill’s language ommitted IPI students, but the legislature’s intent at the time was to include them. Also, the Iowa Department of Education has, since that bill passed, allowed IPI students to utilize parent-taught drivers’ education. The bill updates the Iowa Code with the current Iowa DOT rules.
The bill also reduces the number of street and highway hours from 40 to 30. It states parents can work together to offer parent-taught drivers’ education since the current homeschooling law allows parents to work in tandem with other subjects.
Before State Senator Smith’s comments, State Senator Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, offered an amendment that he said “standardize” drivers education for all students by allowing any parent to handle the driving portion of drivers’ education.
It doesn’t. It added back in the 30 hours of classroom instruction but did not specify the number of hours for different subjects. Bisignano’s amendment also struck language that allowed anyone other than a parent to help with the driving aspect of drivers’ education. The bill only deals with the chapter addressing parent-taught drivers’ education, not the drivers’ education chapter. His amendment also requires parents to have a valid drivers’ license, something Iowa law already requires. It also adds a five-year non-suspension requirement; Iowa law already requires two years.
State Senator Craig Johnson, R-Independence, the bill’s floor manager, urged his colleagues to vote against the amendment.
Bisignano, in response, accused Republicans of discriminating against public school students for opposing something that his amendment did not do.
“So if you think you’re doing your kids a favor, you’re not. And to say to your kids are special, they’re not. And to ask the body to vote no what with no real defense of this because you truly are discriminating against kids who aren’t homeschooled,” Bisignano said. “You’re making parents have to go pay 2, 3, $400 for driving instruction. And all I ask is that you let parents, non-homeschooling parents, teach their own children to drive somehow what? That’s wrong? Somehow what? That’s not safe. This is discriminatory on its face.”
His amendment failed 20 to 25. The Iowa Senate, after the debate, passed the bill by a vote of 28 to 17.