Joined by a few dozen Des Moines North High School students and several legislators from both sides of the aisle, Governor Terry Branstad signed a long- awaited education reform bill into law Monday morning. One of Branstad’s primary goals when he returned to Terrace Hill in 2011 was to make Iowa’s educational system among the best in the nation, like it was in 1990’s during his previous tenure.
“The 2013 education reform bill promises to provide all Iowa schools with the support they need to significantly raise student achievement,” Branstad said. “Change is never easy. But it was particularly painful that we had to acknowledge that Iowa slipped over the past two decades from a national leader in education to the middle of the pack.”
The bill, House File 215, is lauded by homeschooling advocates. It provides greater freedoms to that community by removing reporting requirements homeschoolers were required to provide to local districts and the state. The reform package also allows homeschooling parents to teach driver’s education.
Another key component includes the implementation of leadership roles for experienced teachers, who can earn bonuses for mentoring less-experienced educators. Starting teacher salaries in Iowa will also be increased.
“This landmark legislation speaks to how much Iowans value the importance of giving their children a world-class education,” said Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds. “It is the result of an extraordinary effort by many leaders over the past several years to reach agreement on the changes needed to restore Iowa schools to best in the nation and give Iowa’s students a globally competitive education.”
Passage of the bill became very tenuous in the Iowa Legislature. At times, it appeared no agreement would be reached during the 2013 session as partisanship rose. However, Republicans and Democrats came together a week and a half ago with both sides pleased with the reforms.
Another reform in the bill is a process that will demand greater accountability from Iowa teachers in relation to student achievement. The reforms will be phased in over a five-year period. Governor Branstad described the process of passing the bill as a “long journey” that was worth the wait.
“These new reforms must be implemented thoughtfully and with fidelity,” Branstad said. “There are no shortcuts to world-class schools and we will need to build on these reforms in order to continually improve.”
Branstad also announced that he plans to appoint an interim director to the Iowa Department of Education in the next few weeks to fill the vacancy created by the departure of Jason Glass. A Branstad appointee, Glass is leaving Iowa to become a superintendent for a school district in Colorado.
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