Governor Chet Culver’s calling upon legislators to pass a bill that would spell out what new skills Iowa students should acquire by the time they graduate from high school.  "No one is trying to layer the amount of work or to mandate what every teacher should or shouldn’t do in this state. We’ve worked, I think, in a very proactive way with school boards and with teachers to make sure that they can implement this, that this is a practical piece of legislation that gives them the flexibility but at the same time a little more clear signal in terms of our expectations," Culver says.

Critics say the state shouldn’t be making such demands of the state’s private Christian schools that may not wish to teach students about homosexuality or abortion. Iowa Department of Education director Judy Jeffrey says there’s no reference to those issues in the bill. "All of our private schools right now are accredited by the state Board of Education and the majority of the non-public schools really do want the core curriculum, especially the Catholic schools and 75 percent of the students who are educated in non-public schools attend Catholic schools," Jeffrey says, "so they’re very supportive of the core curriculum because they’ve always believed they want to be held to the same standards as our public schools are held."

The list of essential concepts and skills outlined in the bill is called a "model core curriculum."

"We’re trying to be very clear about our administration’s priorities and I’m interested in working in a good faith way with…legislators on both sides of the aisle so we’re very confident that they’ll be able to agree that this is really important and it’s got to get done this session," Culver says.

Financial literacy as well as an increased attention to civics are on the list of "essentials" for students in the 21st century.