2013 Legislative Priorities

Des Moines Public Schools wishes to engage legislators and executive branch leaders to identify ways in which greater flexibility can be provided to large, diverse school districts to better address student achievement. This could include providing better defined “waiver” authority to the Department of Education so that districts such as DMPS have the tools and flexibility to improve student success in a variety of areas. Some examples of possible areas for greater flexibility would include:  

  • Extend the time for students who need additional ELL support;
  • Use districts greater flexibility in the use of At-Risk funds for student improvements;
  • Allow districts to register any student in a Post-Secondary Enrollment Option course, regardless of their Iowa Assessment scores;
  • Exempt a district from the rule requiring designation of one world language as a district’s world language;
  • Allow 8th grade students to take high school level courses as a district sees fit.

For more information on state legislation, visit the Iowa General Assembly.


Des Moines Public Schools is a founding member of the Urban Education Network, which now represents the largest 18 school districts in Iowa educating more than 36% of our state’s public school students. The 2013 legislative priorities of the UEN member school districts are:

Educational Policy

  • Student Assessment: The UEN supports assessments aligned with the Common Core, like Smarter Balanced, including formative and end-of-course assessments.  We support a college readiness test, such as ACT, for all eleventh-graders. Iowa’s state assessment should be a criterion-referenced assessment that recognizes growth and tests grade-level specific content. While we support the value of norm-referenced assessments, they should not be used for accountability purposes.
  • Preschool: Quality preschool should be provided for all students through the statewide voluntary preschool program.
  • Literacy:  Additional state funding is required to meet higher expectations for literacy at all levels and to deliver targeted intervention programs for all students below proficiency.
  • Evaluation of Instructional Staff: Student achievement growth data should be one of multiple measures included in educator evaluation.
  • Local Flexibility – Level Playing Field for School Choice:  Public schools should be allowed the same flexibility and autonomy offered to charter schools.
  • Teacher Compensation and Time: The UEN supports changes to teacher compensation that elevate the teaching profession, encourage teacher leadership, and differentiate teacher responsibilities focused on student learning.  These investments must be accompanied by increased time for professional development and student instruction, driven by student needs at the local level.

Adequate and Equitable Funding

  • Adequate Funding/Allowable Growth:  The legislature should develop a multi-year plan to raise Iowa expenditures per pupil to the national average.  The equivalent of 16% allowable growth would bridge the 2012-13 gap.
  • Property Tax Equity Reform and Funding Iowa Schools:  Actions to improve property taxpayer equity are more important than measures that only address commercial property taxes.  Property tax reform for all taxpayers and targeted relief to those in high-tax rate districts will be delivered by the following actions:
    • PTER: Fund the Property Tax Equity and Relief Fund so that no school district has an Additional Property Tax Levy above the state average to guarantee dollar-for-dollar property tax relief.
    • State Funding for Special Populations: Replace local property taxes with state funds to cover the shortfalls in special education and English-language learner local funding.  These actions guarantee dollar-for-dollar property tax relief.
    • Dropout Prevention: Support school districts with high numbers of students at risk of dropping out.  A formula weighting of 0.3 applied to free- and reduced-lunch enrollment would support Iowa’s neediest students while reducing property taxes currently funding dropout prevention.
    • Equalize the district cost per pupil in the School Foundation Formula, to close the $175 gap in per pupil funding in school districts’ general funds. In FY 2013, 170 of the 348 school districts were limited to a cost per pupil of $6,001 while the remaining 178 districts were allowed as much as $175 per pupil higher.  State funding to close the gap would provide fair resources to Iowa’s school districts currently below the maximum per pupil cost and relieve property taxes for the others.  To minimize annual financial impact to the state, the UEN supports a three-year phase-in to eliminate this disparity.

To download a copy of the UEN Issue Briefs, which address the legislative priorities in greater detail, please click here.