The Education Summit that Governor Branstad put on this past Monday and Tuesday ended with the Governor receiving a standing ovation from the 1,600 in attendance. It was likely not because his policies recently have been popular with the mostly teacher filled crowd, but perhaps a bigger reflection of the importance of the event and what it will mean for Iowa’s Education future going forward. The ovation was in appreciation of the effort to bring Iowans together to work as one for the future of our children.
That’s not to say the summit wasn’t without its partisan tinges here and there. Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey wasn’t warmly received by some in the crowd during his Monday speech. Talk of more money into education being necessary and the importance of early childhood education received disproportionately loud cheers, given the debate that surrounded education funding in the latest legislative session.
But overall, the message echoed by many of the presenters came out loud and clear. If we are going to fix Iowa’s slide to mediocrity in education, we have to recognize first that there is a problem, and then come together to find a solution. A strong educational system isn’t a partisan issue. While there may be differences between right and left on how to achieve it, the fact remains that both Republicans and Democrats want to see our children afforded the best education possible so they can achieve their dreams without limits.
How we get there, though, has yet to be uncovered. The Summit was a first step. Going forward, the Governor is planning another series of town halls across the state to share ideas gleaned from the myriad of speakers and panels, presenters, and attendees at the summit, and to formulate a plan. He will then issue a legislative package proposal at some point probably in the fall.
The plan will likely focus on teacher preparation and evaluation, student achievement and assessments, stronger standards and a more developed curriculum, and leadership training for principals and superintendents. There will be other ideas taken from states that have led successful reform movements, like Massachusetts and Florida, and from other countries around the world who are steadily passing the United States in educational success.
As one attendee at the Governor’s town hall meetings prior to the Summit stated: If just some of these ideas are put into place, this is an exciting time to be in education. If none are enacted, it will be a big disappointment.