Iowa Council for the Social Studies

Day on the Hill..... January 25, 2024

Legislative Update (March 17, 2024) per Jack Vanderflught

The second funnel date concluded last week. HF 2547, although passed by the House, did not

have widespread support by the Senate Education Subcommittee and the Senate Education

Chair. There were concerns about the costs and staffing needs given the timetable allocated in

the bill. There were other concerns as well regarding definitions. At this point, many in

leadership felt it would be best to wait and see the suggestions that come from the Iowa

Department of Education Director after completing the mandatory review of social studies and

all core areas as passed in a separate bill that passed the House and Senate this term. In both

houses there is a strong recognition that social studies need review with an emphasis placed back

on teaching social studies at all levels, one of our core priorities. There is also a strong belief an

accountability piece must be included in the revision. This has also been a priority of our Board.

Expect a similar revised bill to be proposed in the 2025 legislative session. I encourage between

now and over the next few weeks that all social studies teachers, Republican, Democrat or others

to use this time to share their feelings and beliefs and what should be the priorities of the new


I would like to thank all those in the legislator on both sides of the argument for their willingness

to listen and have open and useful conversations on the matter. We had some of the best social

studies debates I have seen in years.

There are not any current bills moving forward that apply to only social studies. However, in

terms of education, the AEA bill and differences between the House and Senate versions will

make most of the education news as we move toward the end of the session.

Thank you,

Jack Vanderflught

Legislative Update (March 11, 2024)

House File 2544 (formally 2330) passed the Iowa House last week. This is the bill that adds a variety of specific expectations for elementary, middle school, high school, and higher education social studies. There are new course requirements as well.

The bill as passed is linked here. Please be sure to read through the bill and send your comments to your legislator as soon as possible.

The Iowa Senate has a tentative subcommittee hearing scheduled at this time for Tuesday, although there is a high level of skepticism of the costs of the bills by Senate leadership.

ICSS strongly encourages its members to read the bill and forward your comments to help shape debate.

ICSS did publish a statement regarding this bill earlier in the legislative session. You can read it here.

Several newspapers across the state have carried opinions about the bill from Iowa educators. One is from Gary DeLacy and Tandi Permenter from the Clinton Community School District. Their thoughts were published in the Clinton Herald. Consider contacting your local newspaper with your opinion about this bill.

Advocacy Update (December 4, 2023) per Jack Vanderflught

The 2024 Iowa Legislative session begins in January. The first month is very important for those interested in advocating. Starting after the First of January, legislators and their assistance will begin work with new proposals. This is the ideal time to make contacts and build a relationship with your legislators. Please see the Iowa Council for the Social Studies’ advocacy webpage to learn more about advocacy and how to contact your representatives.

On Thursday, January 25 th starting at 9:00 AM, the ICSS Executive Committee will be in the rotunda area of the Iowa Capitol near the Grand Staircase. We will be providing food and drinks and visiting with legislators and interested parties. Please join us.

Advocacy Update (July 19,2023 ) per Jack Vanderflught

I have had ongoing communications with Senate President Amy Sinclair and legislative research staff (especially Erin Kokemiller)who worked on the spring bills that included socials studies. They have been extremely helpful in clarifying the meaning of bill aspects. First and foremost, like the press and myself, there has been confusion on what is actually in the bill. There were several last minute amendments. Among these, the Civics Exam was taken out this year. It is not necessarily dead, but they felt that ran out of time to work out some differences in language this term. Other areas of interest include source identification, the ability to use items at the last minute and other such matters. I have linked the actual version passed with amendments and some of the comments from those who worked on the bill in some capacity. (SF496)

Responses to questions about source reporting and survey use:

*The seven days in this bill only refers to the required notice that parents must be given before requiring students to take a state or federally required survey or examination assessing mental, emotional, or physical health. As far as listings of instructional materials, the bill requires each school board to adopt a policy describing the procedure for the parent or guardian of a student or a resident of the district to review the instructional materials. This will be up to local school boards as to how these are posted online or how parents/guardians/residents are given access. The bill clarifies that this does not include lesson plans, but is aimed at textbooks and core materials. This shouldn’t prevent any instruction on current events.

* It sounds like these two different items were being confused, and it’s very likely that there is some confusion due to previous versions of the bill, but I do think this final version will make it much less burdensome on the school while also giving families needed transparency.

This was a response to questions about the use of political surveys in class that the teacher nor school sees but students used to do self-evaluations of things like political ideology or party affiliations.

*As for the surveys, SF 496 requires formal surveys evaluating student mental, emotional, and physical health to be opted-in by parents. Since this survey is really only for personal use, and the information is not analyzed or sent off, it is my understanding that that type of survey would be fine. I would use a similar argument for your exam questions about tax plans—this isn’t asking students to reveal personal information but to make/support an informed argument.

Advocating for Social Studies Education in Iowa

The Iowa Council for the Social Studies would like to use this opportunity to advocate on behalf of social studies issues and we need your help. We are working to get the support needed to ensure social studies content and skills are taught to all Iowa students. Specifically, we are advocating that all Iowa Area Education Agencies have at least one full time social studies consultant with a background in the social studies. As schools work on creating their local social studies scope and sequence plans, it is highly vital that dedicated and knowledgeable support be available in all areas of the state. Currently, most AEAs only have a part-time contact for the social studies. In many cases this person has no background in the social studies, or is not provided the time within their duties to assist with social studies matters. We believe this can be addressed. There are many ways you can help. The best way is to meet and/or contact your legislator about the need for a social studies consultant in every AEA. Contact information for all legislators can be found here.

The Iowa Council for the Social Studies officially endorses the Iowa History Advisory Council Report: Recommendations to Create a Systemic Approach to Improving the Teaching and Learning of Iowa History in Iowa’s K-12 Schools. Read the full report here.

Legislative priorities

The Iowa Legislature, the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Area Education Agencies, and local Iowa school districts all must work together to ensure that a high-quality social studies education is provided to all students. With the development of new state standards for the social studies and the implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the ICSS, who represents social studies educators from throughout the state, call on policymakers and stakeholders to ensure that social studies education is included in a well-rounded education that prepares students for college and career readiness as engaged citizens.

The social studies should be given the same priority as other core content areas.


The social studies should be given the same priority as other core content areas. 

  • The ICSS calls for continued appropriate teacher preparation and opposes BOEE reductions in required college credit hours that provide endorsements in non-history government social studies courses with only two or three courses as preparation.

  • The ICSS calls for additional support for teaching social studies courses at all grade levels k-12.

  • The ICSS calls for the creation of a social studies consult in each Iowa AEA with appropriate training for the position.

  • The ICSS calls for access to professional development for all teachers of the social studies in every AEA in Iowa.

  • The ICSS calls for accountability that all grade levels are teaching the social studies through annual reporting by districts to their constituents. 


Social studies education creates informed and engaged citizens. Democracy requires active citizens; social studies education is the guardian of democracy. Social studies education is critical for a competent and responsible citizenry. Only twenty-three percent of students scored at or above proficient on the most recent NAEP (The Nation’s Report Card) exam.  [NAEP, The Nation's Report Card

Additional reasons for concern were also found in an Annenberg Public Policy Center surveys elicited from national samples of the U.S. population in the past decade. Findings included that

  • A little more than a third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, just as many (35 percent) could not name a single one.

  • Just over a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto. 

  • One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration. 

  • Almost a third mistakenly believed that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling could be appealed.

  • Just under half of Americans (47%) knew that a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court carries the same legal weight as a 9-0 ruling.

  • Just over a third thought that it was the intention of the Founding Fathers to have each branch hold a lot of power, but the president has the final say. [Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools]

The Iowa Department of Education study entitled, Social Studies: A Call to Action, found that Iowa elementary teachers are only spending about one hundred minutes per week on social studies education, or about five percent of the instructional week. Whereas they are required to spend ninety minutes per day on literacy. [Social Studies: A Call to Action, Iowa Department of Education]

According to the guidance regarding SSAE grants and civic instruction: “An LEA may use funds to promote the development, implementation, and strengthening of instructional programs in civics. Civics is generally understood to mean the content of what citizens should know about politics and government, including the foundations of the American political system. Schools can provide civics instruction through both formal and informal education beginning in the early years of the education process.” (ESEA section 4104(b)(3)(A)(i)(V))

On April 13, 2016, the US Department of Education in a Dear Colleague Letter ( stated that the use of ESSA funds can include “humanities education.” Humanities education would include the social studies: history, civics, government, economics and geography. This provides opportunity and incentive for the Iowa Legislature to redistribute funding to social studies education. ESSA requires that students receive a well-balanced education.

The Iowa Department of Education study entitled Social Studies: A Call to Action shows that fifty-nine percent of Iowa social studies teachers reported no access to professional learning in the social studies in the last two years. [Social Studies: A Call to Action, Iowa Department of Education]

Social studies education teaches twenty-first century skills.

  • Social studies education prepares students to access and understand the tools of democracy; engage in public debate; learn and apply critical thinking; to understand the past and connects between different regions and cultures; to read beyond comprehension to the evaluation, synthesis, analysis and interpretation levels.

  • Social studies education prepares students for college. Social studies education combines the disciplinary components of civics, geography, economics and history.

  • Social studies education prepares students for career. Social studies education provides a critical foundation of attitudes, knowledge and skills that are most adaptable to new circumstances. Employers today want more emphasis on critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communications, cultural understanding, and applied knowledge in a real-world setting. Employers are also looking to hire those who demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity, intercultural skills, and the capacity for continuing education.

Creating a Partnership

The Iowa Council for the Social Studies would like to be a resource and partner with the Iowa Legislature in improving social studies education. For more information on our priorities, or to discuss any social studies related matter, please contact:

Jack Vanderflught
Iowa Council for the Social Studies
Government Liaison and Advocacy Director

Contact Your Federal Legislators

Senator Chuck Grassley

Capitol Office
United States Senate
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-1501
Phone: 202-224-3744
Fax: 202-224-6020

Des Moines Office 
210 Walnut St
Des Moines, IA 50309-2115
Phone: 515-288-1145
Fax: 515-288-5097

Tweet Senator Grassley: @chuckgrassley
Leave Comments:

Senator Joni Ernst

Capitol Office
nited States Senate
111 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-3254
Fax: 202-224-9369

Des Moines Office
210 Walnut St
Des Moines, IA 50309-2115
Phone: 515-284-4574
Fax: 515-284-4937

Tweet Senator Ernst: @SenJoniErnst

Leave Comments:

House of Representatives

District 1:  Mariannette Miller-Meeks
Phone: 202-225-6576
US House of Representatives    
1716 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1502  

District 2:  Ashley Hinson
Phone:  202-255-2911  
US House of Representatives
1429 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1502  

District 3:  Zach Nunn
US House of Representatives  
1232 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1502  

District 4:  Randy Feenstra
Phone: 202-225-4426
US House of Representatives  
1440 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1502  

The Iowa Council for the Social Studies is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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