Public Hearing on Education Reform

On Tuesday the House held a public hearing on House File 2380, the Education Reform bill. In just under two and half hours, the legislature heard from about 44 speakers and an opening statement by Governor Branstad about his proposed bill.

The speakers were all over the board on issues, with many not taking a position on the full bill itself, but rather individual parts of the bill. Aside from the Governor, speakers included teachers, principals, superintendents, lobbyists, parents, youth ministers, school board members, union representatives, and students. There is much passion for the education of Iowa’s children.

Several speakers focused on the online learning components in the bill. A parent of several children who have been enrolled in online learning programs spoke about the positive experience it afforded him and his family. Others were cautious about a full day of online learning for any kids, specifically those in younger grades, expressing concern about socialization and achievement.

Additionally, a provision in the bill regarding third-grade literacy and the retention of third-graders who do not meet minimum proficiency received much attention. Some felt that basing a child’s progression on a single test was unfair, while others argued that acquiring necessary reading skills was essential to achieving any success in later grades, claiming passing a student along when they were unprepared was not a fair move. Unanimously it is agreed that a larger focus on literacy needs to be taken and the bill makes positive steps, but the retention part is up for debate.

With a bill of this scope, one that essentially combines a dozen or more policy pieces into a single bill, it’s understandable that consensus was discussed issue by issue. Regardless of the position many speakers took, the overwhelming message received was that reform of some kind was applauded, appreciated, and necessary.

The next steps for the Education Reform bill will be House Floor action at some point. Amendments are being drafted and discussed on both sides of the aisle as legislators prepare for the discussion before the full body soon. The Senate is currently moving its own version of education reform in a much smaller bill that shares some similarities with the governor’s proposal and the bill before the House. When and if they plan to act on their measure, however, is unclear at this point.