Iowa legislators are being urged to create an independent commission that would have broad powers to dream up new ways of doing things in Iowa schools. Des Moines lawyer Doug Gross is a member of the Institute for Tomorrow’s Workforce, the bipartisan group pushing for this new education reform commission. “The structure of the system that we have has really been cobbled together, really, over a century and a half,” Gross says. “Frankly, it is a system that is inefficient and doesn’t serve us well.”
Gross envisions the new reform commission having broad authority to order changes in schools, perhaps consolidation of districts. University of Northern Iowa president Robert Koob is co-chair of the Institute for Tomorrow’s Workforce, agrees that change is needed in Iowa schools.
Koob says there should be clear “performance indicators” for each school district to achieve, and unwillingness to meet those goals would “reasonably lead” to closing the district and sending students elsewhere. “Not only should we have high expectations for our students, but we should have high expectations for our teachers and we should have high expectations and performance measures not only for those teachers but for the system in which they find themselves,” Koob says.
Koob says the commission would work in the same way the federal commission examining the U.S. military works: the president and congress must accept all the base closures recommended, or reject the entire package. Koob says it would not be an effort focused on closing school districts down, but instead would be a commission trying to create efficient, effective schools.
Gross says there’s no “hidden agenda” to shut down small, rural schools. Gross says the “performance standards” that would be set for schools would apply to urban schools as well as rural schools. “Those who think there’s some hidden agenda focused on just rural areas are simply wrong,” Gross says.