Herman Quirmbach

Herman Quirmbach

A 10-member panel of legislators asked to come up with a compromise education reform plan has agreed upon just one thing.

“We agreed to meet at noon tomorrow,” Representative Ron Jorgensen, a Republican from Sioux City who is co-chair of the 10-member conference committee, told reporters after the group’s meeting.

The panel spent an hour today rehashing their differences over teacher improvement plans Democrats have proposed, compared to the one Republicans want — without agreeing on a single point.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Jorgensen said. “We’ve got some huge hurdles to get over.”

Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, is the other co-chair of the conference committee and he spoke with reporters, too.

“Agreements? I don’t think so,” Quirmbach said. “But progress? Yes. We’ve focused our discussion on our common areas.”

Jorgensen said parts of the Democrats’ plan are just “totally unacceptable” to Republicans, so it’s time to set those aside and focus on other parts.

“At some point in time just like, you know, trying to solve a puzzle or something, you just have to walk away at some point in time and come back to it,” Jorgensen said. “I’m not saying throw it away. I’m saying we’re not agreeing anywhere, let’s move on…maybe gain some momentum on some other areas and then come back.”

Quirmbach agreed legislators should try to “do the easy stuff first.”

“I would like to move as quickly as we possibly can, contingent on doing good public policy,” Quirmbach said. “But to rush something through that is only half-baked and poorly thought out and it’s going to be impossible for districts to afford or to implement — that doesn’t serve the needs of our children.”

Late last week Republicans offered to up significantly the ante on the money they’re willing to spend on the plan, if Democrats would accept all the policy prescriptions Republicans want. Democrats called that a “my-way-or-the-highway” ultimatum rather than a legitimate offer.