Lessons from Iowa on Fighting for Local Control

Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation had an op/ed published in Deseret News entitled “Lessons for Utah from Iowa: Fight for control of education.”  She wrote:

If the centralizing impact of the Obama education waivers wasn’t already clear, the recent decision by the U.S. Department of Education to issue its first waiver rejection to Iowa — a state well known for its history of local control — makes it unambiguous that the waivers are designed to increase federal control over education.

Why was the Hawkeye state denied this alleged flexibility? Evidently, Iowa’s long-standing legacy of school district autonomy prevented the state from being eligible for a waiver.

The U.S. Department of Education informed Iowa that it would have to implement a statewide teacher evaluation system if it hoped to receive a waiver. Because the legislature hasn’t vested the state department of education with the authority to mandate such regulations on school districts, Iowa can’t meet the federal government’s condition.

Unfortunately many outside of Iowa aren’t aware of our Governor, Terry Branstad’s push for the centralization of education and the fact he chastised the Legislature for not giving up on local control

Burke then goes on to discuss options that exist for flexibility without the strings attached:

One of the more frustrating aspects of the NCLB waiver issue is the fact that an alternative to NCLB that provides genuine flexibility for states exists, and doesn’t carry with it the strings associated with the waivers. For years now, conservatives in Congress have championed the Academic Partnerships Lead Us To Success Act, or A-PLUS, which would allow states to completely opt-out of NCLB.

States that choose to opt-out would be empowered to use their share of federal funding for any lawful education purpose under state law. And if a state can demonstrate over a five year period that it is able to improve student outcomes, the state can continue to enjoy that flexibility.

It’s a far better approach than further concentrating power in the halls of the Department of Education, which is the outcome we can expect if the White House waivers continue.