Legislators Mike May, Jodi Tymeson, and Kim Reynolds, along with Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn, held a press conference outlining their new plan to increase accountability in our public schools. Basically the plan calls for the testing of new teachers and for high school seniors to take an exit exam before graduation. Rep. May is a retired teacher from Spirit Lake. I have a few problems with this plan although I think the intent is honorable.
Most people agree we do need more accountability in our school system. Iowa students’ test scores are dropping while in other states they are rising. Iowa used to be the best state to educate your child and now we are, depending on which study you look at, close to slipping out of the top ten. But before we start imposing new regulations at the state level, shouldn’t we look to what caused our public schools to fail to teach our students adequately?
A look at our state’s past will shed light on what worked and what didn’t. We used to have a school almost every two miles. Of course that isn’t practical now but can still shed some light on our current problems. The state and many school districts are pushing for consolidation based on better revenue and more efficient education. By more efficient they mean cheaper – not better. Consolidating will allow the districts to have fewer teachers and supposedly fewer administrators but it never decreases the student to teacher ratio.
We also used to have working relationships between teachers and parents. Now parents send their kid off to school more for babysitting than an education and only get a phone call if their kid gets into a fight or breaks a rule. Teachers can’t do this by themselves, parents must get involved with their children.
Maybe the most dramatic change in the past 50 years is the amount of state and federal control now in our public education. With that control comes billions of dollars of money for our schools. But for some reason in education, with every dollar spent grade points drop. Instead of recognizing this and eliminating the state and federal control, we continue to pour more money into a failing system. More money is not the answer and for those who believe it is, you definitely aren’t studying history.
Unions are also a major problem. Administrations, due to the union influence, find it almost impossible to fire or otherwise punish bad behavior by our educators. Because of this we have bad teachers producing bad test scores – it really is as simple as that.
We must get back to local control. The only real way to do that is to strip the funding from the federal and state government, eliminate the state and federal Departments of Education, break up the teachers union, and give the control to the most connected individuals in the school districts, the school board. They are the only individuals who are directly responsible for the education of our children. If they fail, they will be removed.
Once again, I do respect the intent of our good legislators who announced their plan for more accountability. But adding more government control is at best a temporary band aid. We must relinquish the control back to the local school board as it was when Iowa lead the nation in education. This solution worked previously and will work again if we have the guts to stand up to the union and liberals in the Iowa House and Senate.
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