Iowa Education Reform Bill Heads to State Senate

The Republican-controlled Iowa State House has finished modifying Governor Terry Brandstad’s proposal for the education reform in the state and has now passed the bill along to the Democrat-controlled State Senate for further modification. The legislators are optimistic that the reconciliation can be finished and the final bill voted on before both chambers adjourn for the year later this month.

Although the House version adopts most of Brandstad’s provisions, including charter school expansion, increase in student testing, and the third-grade retention program that has drawn controversy since its unveiling, the legislators altered a few key parts including the removal of the requirement that anyone seeking to teach much maintain a college GPA of at least 3.0 and tightening the restrictions on which students may enroll in online classes.

The Senate is expected to focus on the provisions of the bill dealing with literacy and class size.

The Senate will also debate expanding core classes to include arts, music and technology and establishing local experiments to measure impacts on student achievement of extending the school year and school day, Schoenjahn said.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, chairman of the Senate Education Committee who will be floor manager of the education reform bill, said there’s broad support for competency-based education and for expanding the topics covered by the core curriculum. He also said there’s strong support for early-grade reading and getting students help early.

Quirmbach seemed especially keen to make sure that the problems that plagued online-only schools in Colorado, such as high drop-out rate and poor academic outcomes, won’t also arise in the online schools scheduled to start operating this fall in the Clayton Ridge Community School District and CAM Community School District. Earlier this year, the hearings held during legislative deliberations over allowing online schools to operate in the state, became very contentious with one legislator accusing the CEO of Connections Academy Barbara Dreyer of rudeness and disrespect.

The altercation arose when Dreyer was questioned by a retired teacher and current State Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City who reminded Dreyer that teaching was about forming connections with students and not exclusively about class work.