Iowa’s former governors say they’re concerned about the direction of education in the state. Former Governor Terry Branstad says part of the problem is declining enrollment in small, rural schools — and the accompanying drop in state funding because of that decline. Branstad says some small schools aren’t offering students the advanced math and science classes they need, and he says it’s time for the state to step in and establish uniform, statewide academic and graduation standards. “I think some district are doing good, doing really well. Others aren’t doing what they should,” Branstad says. “This is not a partisan issue but it’s a tough issue and one that’s going to take some courage to address.” Former Governor Robert Ray agrees, and he says it’s also time for more school consolidations. Ray says local people should decide what should change and what configuration would be most productive for students. He says mergers would save money that could be used to boost teacher salaries. Both Ray and Branstad are republicans. Iowa’s other living ex-governor is Robert Fulton, a democrat who served as governor for two weeks back in 1969 after the previous governor, Harold Hughes, was elected to the U.S. Senate and decided to be sworn in early to gain seniority. Fulton’s main concern is having rural school districts become so large that students have to spend hours on a school bus. Fulton says if it takes more state aid to keep smaller-sized school districts with more reasonable bus routes, then the money should be spent. Fulton, Ray and Branstad made their comments this morning during a joint appearance on K-U-N-I public radio.
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