A Disgrace in Iowa

Iowa House File 2342 has been on my radar for several weeks (initially introduced as HF 2126). Yesterday, I received a further communication on it, which stated that “the bill as written will not be brought up for consideration unless Matt Windschitl (the sponsor of the bill) requests it. The understanding is he will hold the bill until next year so there will be time for positive feedback from the profession and new language can be, at that time,  introduced with the support of the massage community.”

That’s good, because at this time, it doesn’t have the support of anyone except the misguided person who set it in motion, nor should it.

I was initially stunned at the poorly-written and  ill-conceived bill that eliminates the education requirement for massage therapy, which is currently 600 hours. The first draft of the bill I saw just struck through the education requirement altogether, although line 25 still says “meets or exceeds Iowa’s educational requirements.” This upset me to the point that I called on several Iowa residents and people in the know, who basically assured me that it was a “placeholder” bill….a simple explanation of a placeholder bill is that “the deadline for introducing any bills is imminent, and we’ve got to get something in there now that we can revise later”….one of those quirks of politics.

As of February 21, I hate to report that the revision doesn’t look any better. The language getting rid of the 600-hour requirement is still there, and nothing to take it’s place.

I have had three reliable sources state to me that this bill was introduced at the request of a school owner who is upset about federal regulations on financial aid, and that the true intent of the bill is to change clock  hours to credit hours. However, that isn’t spelled out. This legislation is a piece of crap in its present form that sends massage right back to the dark ages in Iowa.  It’s being discussed on several Facebook threads, and the consensus is that the Iowa Board of Massage had nothing to do with it, that AMTA has nothing to do with it–other than expressing their displeasure and urging their members to contact their legislators to kill it–and that the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards–as an entity–has nothing to do with it. Interestingly enough, the bill also places two school owners on the Iowa Board.

Kathy Jensen, the current President of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, who is an Iowa resident and a school owner, and former Chair of the Iowa Board, in direct response to my asking on my FB page if any Iowa residents had a clue on this, stated “Wearing my own hat and not FSMTB hat….. HF 2126 is as Keith Grant mentioned, was a place holder. Iowa has in place in their rules “600 clock hours or the equivalent in credit hour”, that has not changed. The education requirements have not been eliminated or changed for the state. The new language for the bill will support consistency in statute and rules. If the statute requires only clock hours and the rules state both there is inconsistency. I don’t see this as a big change for Iowa since it has been in the rules for a long time without issue. I do see the additional acceptance of credit hours in statute as a step forward for the massage industry.”

That’s well and good–except for one thing: The ongoing sermon from the Federation is portability. Nearly every other state is still operating on the clock hour requirement for massage education, so I don’t see how this is going to serve portability in any way. It’s a common practice in community colleges to use the credit hour system, but in most states, they actually have to convert that to clock hours on their transcripts to prove clock hours to the satisfaction of the state board. If you look at the state requirement charts for licensing that are regularly printed in our trade journals, every one is listed in clock hours, not in credit hours. The one revision that has taken place on the bill doesn’t do anything to clear up the language or the issue. It is just striking the 600 hours and leaving the “education requirements” part, without spelling out what that is.

My five years of service on the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy ended last year. I’ve never owned a school, but there were a few times when I had to recuse myself from a disciplinary hearing, vote, or discussion, because of a conflict of interest or something that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. People who are serving on public boards need to recall at all times that not only are you obligated to avoid a conflict of interest, you are obligated to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Yes, you have a life–and rights–as a private citizen, and as a school owner. When that is in conflict–or appears to be in conflict–with the obligations you have agreed to carry out for the Board you are serving, you have a choice. You either recuse yourself, you resign and get out altogether, or you put yourself and the entity you serve at risk. I would urge whatever school owners who serve the Iowa Board, and anyone who serves any board, to remember that fact.

16 thoughts on “A Disgrace in Iowa

  1. Angela Palmier

    Thank you for posting this blog Laura. I first learned of it when the blog was initially introduced and couldn’t believe that anyone having a direct relationship with the massage therapy profession would be behind its introduction.
    I’m not going to debate the merit of clock vs. credit hour–not even going to debate my opinion regarding the number of hours it takes to demonstrate “entry level” competency. It would seem that AFMTE would be the organization to respond to that piece. What I am disgusted with is the fact that the FSMTB Board President is the author, and further that she, or the Federation for that matter seem to overlook this very specific and direct conflict of interest. One of the things I admired about the FSMTB for many years was it’s transparency and its unwavering dedication to its mission. It would appear that they have forgotten a few years ago when a Board Chair of a competing organization, now deceased, took her “Board” hat off and put her “Personal” hat on to the near destruction of the organization. The FSMTB is now reaching into the CE approval arena, scope of practice, portability issues and all the while this is the person who is leading this effort? Are we supposed to take this person seriously??? And further, should we take the Federation seriously if they fail to act, just as they demanded from that competitive organization only a few years ago? Perhaps a little Board Training is in order?

    I’m not involved with either organization, I am however a fierce defender of the massage therapists who are the funders, supports, and reason why all MT organizations exist. I’m less upset about the education requirements than I am of the sheer arrogance of such an action. I do sincerely hope that the FSMTB will provide comment on this issue soon. If this is the ill-conceived action of one Board Member, so be it. If this is the new standard operating procedure of the FSMTB, the future of that organization may be in serious trouble.

  2. Gordon Wallis

    Laura, I don’t see how you keep from pulling your hair out dealing with all these state regulations regarding our profession. Question.. Do acupuncturists and chiropractors deal with the same regulatory upheavals as our profession? If not, why? As far as healing capabilities and benefit to the general public ,we have as much if not more to offer as far as pain and stress reduction as they(chiropractors and acupuncturists) do. Even today I was able to dramatically help a women that up to this point received no benefit from those other professions..Yet my license is the same as the brothels two blocks away, which is suppose to be illegal. Anyway, thanks for keeping us posted on all this stuff. – Gordon

  3. Pingback: Iowa House File 2126 – Eliminating the 600 Hour Requirement for Massage Therapists

  4. Brian Longcor

    Keith Grant was a classmate of mine in the mid-90’s when I was studying Orthopedic Massage under Tom Hendrickson, D.C. Unless he’s changed his mind since I last spoke to him about these issues, Keith Grant has consistently and aggressively offered a leading voice for well over ten years preaching absolute tolerance for using massage as a front for promoting prostitution. Keith opposes testing of any kind, and education standards in general. What’s interesting here is to see that Keith Grant’s views appear to be admired by the President of the FSMTB… Which would seem to leave the massage profession in the USA with no ethical leadership of any kind…

  5. Emmanuel

    It’s not the first time that someone wearing multiple hats does something that irritates people. Last year, in Illinois, a school director who was also on the licensing board and was president of AMTA-IL during that same time, tried to sneak in an amendment that would raise the number of school hours to a number that would effectively put non-accredited schools out of business and make reciprocity difficult. The same people who supported him are the ones calling for FSMTB president to be disciplined or step down. I think it has to do more with allegiances and less to do with the essence of this particular situation.

    I agree with Laura that people in position should recuse themselves and avoid conflict of interest and even the appearance of conflict of interest. There is a fine line between advocacy and conflict of interest.

    In this particular case, knowing Kathy, I am content with her explanation and do not think there is anything underhanded here. Also, to the extent that FSMTB is a representation of MT boards, I don’t think that the president alone can take the organization to a faraway place. The fact that Keith found no problem with it comforts me as, from all his writings and other positions on many topics, I have found him to be a fair, ethical, and intelligent man.

  6. Laura Allen

    Here is the reason why this attempt at legislation is misguided: Even if the statute was changed to allow the Board to approve massage schools based on credit hour measurement, it would still NOT get things back to the funding level before the regs were changed on July 1, 2011. The reason is that the formula for clock-hour to credit hour conversion was changed from a 30:1 basis — to a 37.5:1 basis.

    Effective July 1, 2011, the USDE requires institutions offering vocational training programs to apply new formulas in converting clock hours to credit-hour equivalencies.

    Undergraduate programs which meet the Department’s definition of “clock hour programs” must use the new clock-to-credit hour conversion. Under these new conversion formulas, programs that are 720 clock hours in length, for example, will no longer be eligible for 24 semester credits of Title IV student financial aid. Only programs that are 900 clock hours in length will be eligible for this amount of aid.

    Looking at this in more detail: Prior to July 1, 2011, a 720 clock-hour program converted to credit hours under the 30:1 formula came out to to 24 semester credit hours, which is the number used by the USDE as the minimum for Full Time Attendance. 720 ÷ 30 = 24. That means students were previously eligible to receive 100% of the Pell Grant for which they are eligible, as well as 100% of the max loan amounts they qualify for. This was a loophole exploited by many career colleges and other Title IV-eligible massage schools, because the USDE otherwise counted Full Time Attendance as 900 clock hours.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, this loophole was closed by the new 37.5:1 conversion formula which now requires a clock hour program to be 900 hours in length to equal 24 credit hours. So even if the Iowa act was changed to accept credit-hour based massage programs, they would have to be at least 900 clock hours in length for their students to receive 100% of their potential Federal Student Aid. So whomever is behind this legislation, no matter who that is and what position they are in, is barking up a tree that has no longer has any fruit on it, and is wasting the time and resources of the Iowa Legislature–and the taxpayers who support it.

  7. Keith Eric Grant

    Brian Longcor (aka Brian Goodwin) continues to misrepresent my positions and viewpoints in a malicious manner. This largely stems, I believe, from my support of a prior San Francisco massage ordinance that was also supported by David Palmer and AMTA-CA. Mr Longcor, with a persistence near to delusion, has consistently equated support for this bill, which moved local regulation from the police department to the health department, with active support for prostitution. This was not the case. There is a summary of the situation, including a quote of Brian Goodwin’s (nie Longcor) opposition at Massage Today.

    http://www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=10950

    I have and continue to frown about the use of “more hours” or more tests as higher standards in themselves. My believe is that entry requirements, particularly as imposed by the legal force of the state, should be based on the concept of public protection and on a clearly defined job description. In other words, the education should follow the definition of competency, not the idea of some arbitrary hurdle. I and a number of others continue to work toward evidence-based massage therapy.

    Nor am I alone in having a distaste for requirements that don’t lead to improvements in actual practice. While I don’t share Ralph Stevens distaste for the medical profession, I do believe that his basic observations of requirements are correct.

    Challenging Sacred Cows I
    http://www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=14495

    Challenging Sacred Cows II
    http://www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=14536

    Education – Where Does Advanced Begin?
    http://www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=13376

    There is a reason that the FSMTB takes note of my views. I was one of the invited educators that participated in the formation meetings of the FSMTB in May and September 2005. I was also one of those there encouraging them to create a licensing exam based on state law requirements. I had (too quickly if you count typos) put together a short viewpoint paper that was distributed at both of those initial FSMTB meetings. I believe this supports my view that Mr. Longcor is a fount of nonsense and malfeasance.

    A New Massage Therapy Licensing Examination:
    We Need Clear Goals, Transparency, & Public Accountability
    http://www.ramblemuse.com/articles/KEG_NewExamMotivations.pdf

  8. Chris Rider

    Thanks Laura for shedding some additional light on this situation happening right here in my home state of Iowa. I agree totally and whole heartedly with your comments and the not only possible but very probable results should House File 2342 pass.

    As a LMT in Iowa since 1994 and a school owner there is no part of HF 2342 that I feel benefits the profession or protects the public, which is the stated purpose of our licensing board.

    One point of clarification, if I may, is that the new proposal would have two INSTRUCTORS on the Iowa licesning Board, not owners. While this is a relatively minor point I thought I would point this out.

    Thank you again for spreading the word, Laura. We have to DEFEAT this and keep it out of consideration for this year and years to come!

    Chris Rider, BS, LMT
    Carlson College of Massage Therapy

  9. Laura Allen

    Thanks for catching that, Chris. I do hope this is recognized for what it is–a big step back. All state boards, and the FSMTB as an organization, are charged with public protection. This does nothing at all to help that. I feel that it was a move that was intended to be self-serving–but mistakenly so–and that if the person who brought it forth had researched the new federal regulations carefully enough, it would have never happened. Hindsight is 20/20.

  10. Relax & Rejuvenate

    Am I missing something? I can’t seem to find the blog post about Obamacare, where we had to “pass the bill in order to know what is in it”

    “I’m less upset about the education requirements than I am of the sheer arrogance of such an action”

    Not sure what could be more arrogant than the “Disgrace in DC” of 2009, Obamacare will phase out Health Savings Accounts, which currently can be used to pay for massage therapy.

    So clock hours vs. credit hours = DISGRACE, eliminating a means for people to afford massage therapy and other ACM = SILENCE

    I think indignace needs to be prioritized.

  11. Rick Rosen

    This unfortunate matter presents an important reminder for all who serve (or who are considering serving) on state massage regulatory boards or non-profit boards of directors in our field:

    These are special roles with unique responsibilities, as you are there solely to represent the public interest. Taking a seat on a state board or non-profit means that you consciously set aside your personal agendas and your business interests — and choose to act in support of the greater good.

    While it’s true that all Americans enjoy the First Amendment rights of Free Speech, there are special considerations that come with the territory of public service. As a general rule, anything you say or do while you’re in office reflects on the board itself, and it is considered an unacceptable conflict of interest to use the position for your personal gain or edification.

    Because of this structure, there may be times when board members find that their commitment to serving the public interest is at cross-purposes with their own financial interests or belief systems. Most such conflicts can often be avoided by the mechanism of recusal, as others have commented above. Simply avoiding participation in the discussion of, or voting on a matter is the typical way this is handled in board meetings. There can be great wisdom in silence.

    However, more significant conflicts of interest present a difficult choice point that must be addressed: if the board member in question is not willing to put aside their own needs or agenda, then resignation from office may be the only viable option that preserves the integrity of the agency or organization.

    I got schooled in all of this during my various “tours of duty” at the leadership level of the massage profession. From 1999-2003, I served on the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy, including 2-1/2 years as its founding chairman. Being a massage school owner/director and a member of that board, I had to deal regularly with insinuations that it was an inherent conflict of interest for any school owner to serve on a massage regulatory board, and that it should not be allowed in any circumstance.

    In fact, I was the subject of three separate Advisory Opinions issued by the NC State Board of Ethics on this question (perhaps an individual record). Each time, the Ethics Board affirmed that there was no reason a massage school owner or director could not serve on the massage board — as long as the rules of recusal were followed.

    Along these lines, it’s important to note that all practitioner members of massage boards across the country have the potential for conflict of interest, because they are a part of the profession they are regulating. It’s a feature of the landscape, and it takes ongoing diligence to navigate it successfully.

    After I left the NC Board, I was part of the group that established the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, and served as its first Executive Director. As I’ve been tracking massage regulation over the past two decades, I’ve seen lots of examples of school owners and other massage educators who have served admirably and with integrity on state massage boards. They bring an essential point of view to the regulatory process. I’ve also been disappointed by the actions of some of my colleagues in positions of authority who have put their own interests before the public interest. The current situation spotlighted by Laura in this blog can be used as a case study, as it will inform those who aspire to serve with honor.

    Rick Rosen, MA, LMBT
    Body Therapy Institute
    Siler City, North Carolina

  12. Pingback: LauraAllenMT.com » Blog Archive » FSMTB Unveils Plan for Continuing Education

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  14. carole

    I am just an ordinary citizen….and although I truly do not understand what these few words mean in this small bill, I am quite aware of the consequences of the bill that started this in July 2011.

    I have 2 daughters in a community college. They completed the FASFA and were told they qualify for a student loan and a Pell grant……they registered in school and are currently holding a 3.8 grade average.
    They received part of their pell grant as well as part of their student loan in October 2011…then suddenly they were told…Sorry the law has changed you cannot get the rest of the loan (which you signed a contract for) nor your Pell grant…nor quality for work-study as these are all government monies and the Federal government is holding your money.

    The law has changed so they only recognize clock hours and your credit hours don’t count anymore..or at least are not enough….you have to reach something like 421 classroom hours before you money will be released and O by the way the semister will be over by then. So, now that you are taking mid-term exams, come up with the money to pay for the school OR you can drop out and owe the student loan your received in the fall..

    WHAT IS THIS …..
    Credit hours are the standard ….you need x amount of credits to graduate…I understand hours can equate to needing some on hand training. However, Pell grants should be granted to students based on credit hours taken and their qualifications. This clock hour dependency to receive a pell grant or student is outrageous…but what do I know I am only a voter and a parent

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