New Education Reform Plans from Lawmakers Differ from Branstad's

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Iowa lawmakers tossed aside key provisions of Gov. Terry Branstad’s signature education reform proposals, and instead signaled a desire to take smaller steps toward substantial changes to K-12 education in the state.

The Senate education committee, controlled by Democrats, introduced a new education bill that rejected entire sections of Branstad’s proposals including those concerning the expansion of charter schools, changes to criteria in laying off teachers, and creation of a centralized system for vetting applicants for teaching jobs.

In the House, a Republican-written amendment altering Branstad’s bill — deemed likely to pass given the partisan makeup of the House committee — delayed implementation of a proposal to not promote third-graders who lack basic reading skills to fourth grade. Under the Republican language, third-grade “retention” would go into effect in 2016-17.

In addition, the House amendment removed a section of the governor’s plan expanding online-only education — something lawmakers in both parties have questioned. Instead, the amendment calls for a study on how expanded online-education could be structured and implemented.

Branstad kicked off the state’s school reform efforts last summer in response to slipping scores in math and reading. Iowa students led the country in those subjects 20 years ago. Today, they perform at or below the national average, according to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

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