Iowa Senate Continues Education Reform Debate

Republican Governor Terry Brandstad's education reforms are being discussed in Iowa's Democrat-controlled senate — and the bill they return to the House is unlikely to match the original proposals very closely.

"We have a remarkable record in this legislature and in this state government and at local levels at implementing educational improvements and reforms," Quirmbach said. One-by-one, Democrats turned down Republican measures that would have aligned the bill more closely with Republican Governor Terry Branstad's proposals.

Tenure was predictably a major point of contention between the two sides of the Senate with Republican Senator Pat Ward attacking the entire concept of tenure-based pay and said that paying teacher according to how many years they had been in the job didn't make any sense. Ward has also attacked the idea that seniority is a good predictor of performance and a suitable determining factor in layoffs.

"In the private sector, most employers hire, fire and make layoff decisions based on a person's performance," Ward said. "Merit works."

If any legislation is to be passed then the Democrat controlled Senate and Republican held House will have to compromise at some point, but there appears to be little common ground currently with Democrat senator Rob Hogg claiming that Republicans were painting a grimmer picture of schools in Iowa than existed in reality.

Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, also touted his own idea of closing down the Iowa Department of Education. "I just think that we need to think outside the box. We've got to do better," Zaun said. "…My idea is just empowering the parents, empowering our local school boards to make the right decisions."

Zaun withdrew his proposal before it could be voted down, but the conviction that something needs to be done about education is as widespread in Iowa as it is in other states.

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