The 2012 Iowa legislative session is underway, with top leaders in the legislature indicating the focus for the next few months will be on coming up with a compromise property tax relief package and starting to pass a series of changes for Iowa’s K-through-12 education system.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal says it will lead to a stronger state economy. “The ultimate goal of education reform isn’t higher test scores,” Gronstal says. “It’s a more talented and more productive, more competitive workforce. It is the nurturing of more inventive and innovative Iowa entrepreneurs.”
In October, Governor Branstad unveiled a “blueprint” for education reform that included a new pay system for teachers, but he’s removed that proposal from the plan he submitted to lawmakers.
Instead, Branstad is calling for increasing standards for teachers, including a competency test for graduating college seniors going into teaching, as well as an end to social promotion of third-graders who can’t read at that grade level. This morning, House Republican Leader Linda Upmeyer issued a warning to legislators who might balk at making changes to the state’s education or property tax systems.
“We should be mindful that we were not sent here to bicker with each other or to simply kick the can down the road. We are not here to be at war with ourselves like they are in Washington,” Upmeyer said this morning. “…When there is a problem, we address it.”
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha, the top-ranking Republican in the House, says Iowans have grown “less satisfied” with the state’s schools because the system is “very expensive” and there’s “very little accountability” for administrators, teachers or students.
Listen to all the opening day legislative speeches here: okhenderson.com/2012/01/09/the-2012-iowa-legislature-is-in-session-leaders-speak-audio.