Two rural legislators are drafting new state rules they hope will allow more Iowa schools to experiment with courses that originate from somewhere outside the traditional school building. Senator Brian Schoenjahn, a Democrat from Arlington, is a retired school teacher.
“Let’s keep our elementary schools close to mom and dad and parents and as our students grow to middle school and high school, let’s look at new forms and delivery of instruction using IT, using iPad, using the (Area Education Agencies), using the community colleges, using regional centers,” he says.
Schoenjahn is willing to consider letting people who don’t have a teaching license teach students in some areas. “Maybe collaborations with community, businesses, with experts in the field,” Schoenjahn says. “I think that our local (school) boards are in the position to know what’s best for their students.”
Schoenjahn suggests it’s time to shift scarce state resources around so districts that cover a large geographic area can have courses for students while they’re riding to and from school. “And if we can use the technology that’s out there where they can put the broadband on the bus and we can have laptop instruction while we’re riding, with laptop computers, why not?” Schoenjahn asks.
Schoenjahn is working with Republican Nancy Boettger, a state senator from Harlan, on a bill that would address these and other issues. However, the two lawmakers aren’t optimistic the legislature will be able to thoroughly review and embrace all the concepts this spring before the 2011 legislative session is over.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has agreed to be the keynote speaker for Governor Branstad’s “Education Summit” in July. Branstad has vowed to call legislators back in special session to pass ideas generated during the summit.