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Measure on Home and Church Schools Fails in Iowa

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The Iowa House and Senate adjourned last week after failing to resolve an impasse over how to deal with parents who seek to teach their children at home or in church-affiliated schools that employ uncertified teachers.

As a result, home educators and uncertified teachers may be subject to arrest after July 1, when the legislature's one-year moratorium on prosecuting them ends. Legislators speculated, however, that such prosecutions would be rare, largely because of political pressure on county attorneys who attempt to carry them out.

Although both legislative chambers had agreed to permit home instruction under the supervision of local certified teachers, they were unable to compromise on the issue of standards for church-school teachers.

The Senate had approved a five-year moratorium on prosecuting unlicensed church-school teachers in order to permit them to obtain certification, but House representatives on a conference committee rejected that plan.

The Senate then sent the House a bill that would have extended the current moratorium on prosecuting home educators and unlicensed teachers by two years. The House refused to act on the measure.

A separate bill that would have stiffened the state's truancy laws also failed, because some legislators feared it would be used against home educators.

Representative C. Arthur Ollie, the Democrat who chairs the House education committee, said his cham8ber had made a concession in allowing for home education. Senate backers of home schooling, he said, wasted an opportunity by insisting that the bill also accommodate church schools.

"The people who are lobbying for changes will not accept compromise," he said.

But Senator William W. Dieleman, a Democrat from Pella who teaches in private schools, blamed the failure of the measure on the House and the Iowa State Education Association. The isea, he maintained, "will not be satisfied with anything less than teacher certification."

"I think it is unfair that we again submit parents to possible prosecution because we have not been able to reach a solution," he added.--ps

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