The Iowa House late this morning passed a wide-ranging education reform plan that would require yearly evaluations for school teachers, a test for graduating high school seniors and an extra hour of class time each day for kids in state-funded preschool programs. Representative Royd Chambers, a Republican from Sheldon, described it as a “transformational” bill that’s a “blow to the status quo.”
“It does move us away from the industrial model,” Chambers said. “It does move us towards individual learning…One size does not fit all.”
Governor Terry Branstad launched an education reform effort last year and has been urging legislators to be “bold, not timid” in making changes in Iowa’s K-12 schools. Representative Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City, said in the 12 years Branstad was out of the governor’s office the state launched preschool programs for four-year-olds, a new evaluation process for teachers and tougher course requirements for students.
“We’ve had much discussion since this summer about the state of Iowa education and I’d like to state right here…that Iowa education is not broken,” Steckman said.
Steckman cautioned against change just for the sake of change and urged legislators to enact reforms that will ensure students learn the skills necessary for the job world.
“Unfortunately our ideas that are research based — smaller class sizes, full support of early literacy, teacher collaboration andprofession development and decisions made at the local level by parents, teachers and administrators — were not accepted,” Steckman said.
Representative Greg Forristall, a Republican from Macedonia, responded.
“One thing I’m certain of, there’s not a person in this room who is happy with every element in this bill,” Forristall said. “I’m not, but I also know that everyone in this bill has something in this bill that they like and as complex and far-ranging as this bill is, perhaps that’s the best we can expect.”
Representative Cindy Winckler, a Democrat from Davenport, said the education reform package developed by the House “falls short” in every key area.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to continue the conversations that we’ve had,” Winckler said. “I remain committed to providing an education system that makes a difference in the lives of our students.”
Representative Cecil Dolecheck, a Republican from Mount Ayr, said all legislators — regardless of their party affiliation — have the same goal.
“We all want to allow our students to achieve the maximum potential,” Dolecheck said. “We have some different opinions on how we get there.”
The bill passed the House on a mostly party-line vote of 56 to 43. Representative Tom Shaw of Laurens was one of seven Republicans who voted against the legislation.
“Let’s get to the root issue here,” Shaw said. “We’ve taught young women it’s o.k. to kill your child and the fathers of those children they have no responsibility for it. It’s a free-for-all out there.”
The 53 other Republicans in the House voted for the bill including Representative Jeremy Taylor of Sioux City, who is a high school teacher.
“This is a bold effort and I don’t care what anybody says, but it’s a thoughtful one,” Taylor said. Taylor, though, cautioned that the bill won’t “change the face of Iowa education” without the involvement of parents.