Legislative Priorities

Policy Goals to Support Student Achievement

Under the dome of the Iowa State Capitol

Des Moines Public Schools wishes to engage legislators and executive branch leaders to explore ways in which changes to state law and/or administrative rules will assist Iowa’s largest provider of public education to support the success of our students and continue our work at becoming the nation’s model for urban education.

The following are key issues for Des Moines Public Schools in the 2015 Iowa General Assembly and beyond:

INCREASE EARLY CHILDHOOD OPPORTUNITIES: Des Moines Public Schools serves more than 2,500 preschoolers with both the need and capacity to increase access and expand services. Expanding Iowa’s four-year old universal preschool program would benefit more than 1,000 children in Des Moines, as well as addressing related issues such as full-day programming and transportation for students impacted by poverty.

SUPPORT ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS: Des Moines Public Schools educates more than 6,000 students, nearly 20% of our enrollment, who are English Language Learners, speaking nearly 100 different languages and dialects. DMPS, along with a growing number of Iowa school districts, continue to need expanded opportunities for Iowa’s growing number of ELL students. Immediate benefits would result from expanding weighted ELL funding for up to a maximum of seven years (beyond the additional fifth year approved by the legislature in 2013) and moving Iowa’s weighted ELL funding closer to .30, the national average; both items were recommended by a recent state-wide task force on ELL.

CONTINUE IOWA’S SALES TAX FOR SCHOOLS: Des Moines Public Schools has made extensive investments throughout the entire community thanks to the one cent sales tax. From building new schools, renovating old schools, and making major improvements in key areas such as security, technology and energy efficiency, while creating jobs and investing in the local economy. The needs of schools will not end when this tax expires in 20XX. It will benefit all Iowa school districts to begin the process of continuing this important support for our communities.

IMPROVE FUNDING FOR AT-RISK STUDENTS: Des Moines Public Schools serves a student body that is increasingly diverse by every measure whose needs are not always best served by well-intentioned programs. Students in Des Moines and across Iowa would benefit from increased flexibility in the use of at-risk allowable growth and other state categorical funds.

MAINTAIN SCHOOL CALENDAR FLEXIBILITY: Des Moines Public Schools is proud events such as the Iowa State Fair happen in our community, and that so many of our students and staff participate. That is why DMPS does not begin school before the Fair is over. However, mandating an even later start time for public schools hurts education by reducing the amount of classroom time before students take everything from the Iowa Assessment to AP exams to their college entrance tests. The priority of the school calendar should be what’s best for education, and remain a decision left largely to school districts.

REVAMP ATTENDANCE CENTER RANKINGS: This month, the Iowa Department of Education will begin releasing grades of all public schools in the state through the new attendance center rankings. The criteria of this system must be re-considered as it will unfairly punish many schools, including in Des Moines, simply because of the students served. The development of the attendance center rankings did not take into consideration student growth, which is the key measurement of success in the classroom. If state rankings are to have any meaning, the criteria must be re-evaluated. 

MAKE THE IOWA ASSESSMENT MEANINGFUL: Des Moines Public Schools and all districts in the state use the Iowa Assessment to measure student proficiency. However, the Iowa Assessment does not align with the Core and is not criterion-reference, and therefore is not the most accurate measure. The State should begin work to revise the Iowa Assessment in order to better align with what is being taught in the classroom.

Click here to download a copy of the 2014 Legislative Priorities for DMPS.

In addition, Des Moines Public Schools works closely with school districts across Iowa to advocate for improved laws and policies to benefit education in our state. Visit the Iowa Association of School Boards and the Urban Education Network of Iowa for information about the legislative agenda of these two allies of our school district.