DES MOINES, Iowa – On Wednesday, the Iowa Senate passed 33 to 15, SF 546, a bill that gives all parents, with certain exceptions, the ability to teach their children driver’s education. Currently, the Iowa Code states that parents who homeschool under Iowa’s Competent Private Instruction law can utilize parent-taught drivers’ education.
The original bill, which the Iowa Senate passed 28 to 17 by party line on March 9, just expanded parent-taught driver’s education to all parents utilizing private instruction, including parents who homeschooled under Iowa’s independent private instruction law. The Iowa Department of Transportation already allowed those parents to use parent-taught driver’s education, and the bill was meant to align the Iowa Code with the administrative rules.
The Iowa House, on April 12, amended the bill in its current form by a 59 to 34 vote. The bill, now having passed both chambers, heads to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk.
If signed by Reynolds, the bill will allow parents to teach their children by spending 30 hours of street and highway driving with them and following a curriculum on a list approved by the Iowa Department of Transportation.
Also, Iowa law prohibits someone who had their license suspended from providing parent-taught driver’s education for two years after their suspension is lifted.
During the first Iowa Senate debate on this bill in the Iowa Senate, State Senator Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, complained that only homeschooling parents had the opportunity to teach drivers education.
“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,” he 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.”
Bisignano voted in favor of the bill the second time it came before the Iowa Senate, one of two Democrats who voted to approve the legislation. State Senator Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, was the other. He also voted against the bill in its original form.
During the debate, State Senator Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, introduced an amendment that would require the Iowa Department of Transportation to keep track of student drivers who take driver’s education at a for-profit business or their local school compared to students who take parent-taught driver’s education. She claimed that other states with parent-taught driver’s education have had difficulty with students not completing the program.
She cited a 2018 study conducted by the Oregon Department of Transportation that showed 91 percent of crashes by teenagers over four years were caused by a driver who did not complete a driver’s education course. Oregon, however, does not require driver’s education, whereas Iowa does. Those in Oregon who do not take driver’s education must have 100 supervised driving hours compared to 50 hours if a student completes a driver’s education course.
State Senator Craig Johnson, R-Independence, the bill’s manager, said that annual reports take Iowa DOT employees’ time away from conducting other tasks and create unnecessary paperwork. He discouraged the body from adopting Celsi’s amendment. The amendment failed by a 19 to 29 vote.
Celsi read a letter from a parent who later became a driver’s education instructor who opposed the bill. After reading the letter, she added, “There are some parents who are completely qualified to teach their children to drive. And there, frankly, are some that are not.”
There were no additional comments from legislators, the Iowa House amendment to the bill was adopted by the Senate and they voted in favor of the bill.
Listen to the Iowa Senate debate: