School administrators and the state’s largest teachers union squared off at a statehouse hearing Wednesday. House Republicans want to repeal legislation approved last year that gives the Iowa State Education Association a place at the table as troubled Iowa schools apply for federal grants.

That means the union signs off on any reform plan required by the Federal government. Margaret Buckton, with the Urban Education Network, says having the union there keeps the public out. “This process…has many things done in private. We really want an open conversation with parents and the community,” Buckton said.

But Brad Hudson, with the Iowa State Education Association, says there was plenty of time for public input before schools landed on a list of failing schools. “Let’s remember that to get on the list for a school improvement grant, you’ve had two years of subpar performance,” Hudson said. “Involving parents and the community should have been occurring during that whole time.”

Buckton says the union nixed a school reform plan in Council Bluffs that included bonus pay for teachers who boosted test scores. She says that’s just one example where the new process “kept that conversation from moving forward.” Districts with underperforming schools choose one of four models for reform to qualify for federal school improvement grants.

Hudson claims the law passed last year helps prevent challenges from the teachers union after the fact. “It’s a way for administrators and teachers to be proactive to say, ‘how do we implement one of those four models?’ If you do away with this, I think it puts us back to a process where it isn’t proactive – it’s reactive,” Hudson said. Removing teacher union representation appears headed for passage in the full Iowa House. A representative for school administrators predicts it will die in the Democrat-controlled Senate.