SSB 1190 is met with emotion

Fort Dodge Community School District is committed to doing what’s right for students

Occasionally, a piece of legislation sparks a tremendous amount of emotion on a given topic, but the real underlining issue is not the highlight of the debate. Reflecting on the development and progress of SSB 1190 in the Iowa Legislature provides a perfect example. This bill would repeal the unfunded mandate created in the mid-2000s requiring schools to have certified nurses and also requiring schools to have a certified teacher librarian.

Before I go any further, I want to make clear the Fort Dodge Community School District, regardless of the outcome of this bill, values and is committed to maintaining these positions within our district. Nurses provide valuable health services to our students like health screenings and first aid. Librarians prepare our students for the 21st century and have proven over time to increase student achievement. Our district will have a nurse position open due to retirement. It will be filled because we believe in the work our nurses are doing. If educational funding was not finite, we would want to expand our library services.

Again, my statements are not about the value of nurses and librarians, they are something more.

The thought of cutting nurses and teacher librarians in school districts was the emotional reaction to this particular bill, but that isn’t the underlining issue of the bill. SSB 1190 is about local control and who decides what is best for children.

I think that school boards, made up of locally-elected citizens, will make good decisions to educate students and protect their health. I don’t believe the state has to direct school boards to care about children. There have been an accumulating and increasing number of reporting and administrative requirements that have created a collective burden on school districts. This bill alleviates many of those burdens and gives the decision-making power back to locally elected officials.

We don’t need Iowa Code mandates to have a second-grade teacher, because schools are required to teach second grade.

There’s no Iowa Code mandate for a music teacher or a history teacher either, but we have those as well.

There is no mandate that schools offer orchestra, but Fort Dodge Community School District does.

Why? Our local school board believes it is good for kids. The same rationale for nurses and librarians would apply. We are required to have a library program and provide health services. Schools can’t bill for Medicaid match for special education expenses without a certified health professional signing off. The Medicaid billing prepared by our nurses’ results in about $1.5 million annually for special education services in FDCSD.

Regardless of the law, we would do this because it’s good for kids and is fiscally responsible for our district.

I believe local issues are best solved by local people. This statement is true for city, county, or regional issues as well. Fort Dodge Community School District is committed to providing the students we serve with high quality library programs and health services for kids regardless of what laws come from Des Moines.

Dr. Jesse Ulrich is superintendent of the Fort Dodge Community School District.


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