District 53 Newsletter: Feb. 29, 2024 Edition

State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour).

Week 8 was marked by more intense floor debate as we work through some of the more impactful bills, particularly within the education arena. There are far too many to adequately discuss in this newsletter, but I’ll mention a few.

House Republicans have been meeting with school administrators, law enforcement, and teachers to develop legislative solutions that will make our students and staff safer at school. This week we passed House File 2586, which focuses on personnel that are able and ready to protect students in the event of an emergency.

This bill requires schools with enrollment over 8,000 to employ at least one school resource officer or private security officer. Schools can opt out of this requirement with a vote of their school board. A grant program is created to help schools pay for these positions.

It also creates a new firearms permit that allows a school employee to carry weapons on school properties and receive qualified immunity if they meet the high training standards in this bill. Currently, Iowa code 724.4B allows schools to authorize their employees to carry on school property, but there are no requirements for training. This bill creates a new professional permit and sets an extensive standard of training that school employees must complete. School districts are not required to participate. However, in subcommittee, we heard from many superintendents eager to take part in a program like this. No teacher or school employee is required to take this training – it is entirely voluntary.

To be issued one of these professional permits, a school employee must undergo extensive training. This includes legal training on qualified immunity, annual emergency medical training, annual communication training, annual live scenario training, quarterly live-fire training, and passing an annual background check. This sets a high standard. Because we are talking about the safety of our children, the bar must be high. We recognize that this responsibility must be taken very seriously. Even with the best attempts at prevention, the reality is that bad things can still happen. This bill will ensure more people in our school buildings are prepared to respond in an emergency.

Iowa used to lead the nation in education. But that’s not the case anymore. This week, we passed House File 2545 directing the Department of Education to conduct a comprehensive review of the graduation requirements and K-12 core curriculum. A comprehensive review has not been conducted since 2007. The DE will take input from educators, teachers, and legislators to ensure the education standards setting teachers and students up for success, not holding them back. House File 2544 outlines certain history and civics requirements that must be met in all Iowa public, charter and private schools. This bill seeks to ensure students leave their K-12 education with a fundamental understanding of US and World History, democracy, our rights and freedoms and the importance of civic engagement. When you talk to any young person today, it’s clear our current education system is failing on US History and civics.

In 2021 the Fordham Institute released, The State of State Standards for Civics and U.S. History. Reviews were conducted by a bipartisan team of veteran educators and subject-matter experts. Iowa received a “D” in civics standards and an “F” in U.S. History standards. According to the report, “Iowa’s current civics and U.S. History standards are inadequate. Vagueness and overbreadth lead to a dearth of specific content in both disciplines, and there is no discernible coverage of U.S. History at the K-8 level. A complete revision of the standards is recommended.” It’s time to make this a priority in education again. History has become somewhat of a “second-class subject”, and it really shows. Learning history and civics will help students better understand the world around them and the importance of civic engagement.

We also passed House File 2483 dealing with foreign farmland ownership. This bill strengthens Iowa’s already strong and comprehensive laws protecting Iowa’s precious farmland from foreign entities. Chinese nationals are buying farmland near military bases, and they are attempting to steal our intellectual properties and livestock practices. This must end. This bill amends current registration requirements for nonresident owners of agricultural land to include birthplace, nationality, the purpose of the business, information about the daily supervisor of the land, and the information of the owner’s company and parent companies.

It increases the financial penalty for failing to register or falsifying information from $2,000 to 25% of the land’s assessed value. It also empowers the Attorney General to investigate these reports and requires an annual report to the governor and Legislature of these reports. Iowans across all 99 counties have expressed the need for tougher foreign ownership laws and we delivered.

As always, I look forward to seeing you at the capitol, or in the district.

Dean Fisher, a Republican from Montour, represents District 53 in the Iowa House of Representatives including the communities of Clutier, Garwin, Gladbrook, and Lincoln.