Damage in Iowa’s Education Reform Bill Mitigated

State CapitolThe final version of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s education bill looks much, much different than what he passed.  Originally the bill was 156 pages and it was whittled down to 33 pages.  Consider that a good thing.

A quick rundown…

The good, a number of provisions within the original bill were thankfully dumped:

  • Expansion of the core curriculum (probably the best news of all)
  • Expansion of charter schools (normally I would advocate choice, but the language in the original bill was horrible).
  • Creation of a statewide educator clearinghouse.
  • Creation of an innovation acceleration fund.
  • End-of-course exams for graduating seniors.

Things that were unfortunately kept:

  • Third grade literacy retention – this is a local school and parent decision, not the state’s.  I’m appalled at how many “limited government” advocates in the Iowa House in particular signed off on this.

One item that was dumped that I wish had been kept:

  • Alternative Teachers’ Certification, that was one innovative idea that should have had universal appeal.

One item that was kept that is a positive:

  • The online education language in the bill was kept.  Expanding choice is ultimately a good thing.

If Governor Branstad wants to truly be bold with education reform I have three brief suggestions.  He first needs to expand school choice – nonpublic schools and home education, not just charter schools.  Secondly he can also follow the Massachusetts model of education reform that provided for further decentralization of education.  Third he also needs to address how Iowa’s public union laws impact education within our public schools.  It needs to be easier to fire bad teachers.  Fourth pursue the alternative teachers certification, it only makes sense to hire teachers who have real world experience in the field they teach.  We shouldn’t force them to go back and earn an undergraduate degree in education or a M.A. in Teaching degree.