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Steckman: House Approves Education Reform

From Rep. Sharon Steckman: “Plan Needs More Common Sense Improvements”

With a goal to make sure every child gets the skills necessary to land a good-paying job, the Iowa House approved an education reform package on Wednesday after two days of debate, and two months of committee work.

I was pleased with the work we did together to build consensus on many important parts of the bill. We found agreement on competency based education, which is a revolutionary way of providing education with more personalized instruction and the progress of students guided by mastery of subjects. I also supported efforts to recruit and retain great teachers, engage more parents, and put every student on a track for post-secondary education or skill-specific trades.

Other bipartisan proposals to strengthen education were, improving early childhood literacy by expanding statewide preschool from 10 to 15 hours per week, giving each kindergarten student an assessment, and expanding Advanced Placement on-line classes.

While there were many areas of agreement, I’m disappointed several common sense, research based ideas supported by many teachers, students, and parents were not included. My amendment to lower class sizes in kindergarten through 3rd grade was not taken and another amendment to continue an early family literacy plan was not adopted.

There were also several controversial ideas in the bill opposed by many educators and parents, including a proposal to hold back all 3rd graders who don’t pass a single reading test and eliminating standards for charter schools. Another controversial topic included in the bill allows Iowa students to get 100% of their education on-line through an out of state, for-profit company. I support on-line learning as a supplement, but am concerned about students never being in a classroom with a teacher and other students and sending millions of Iowa tax dollars out of state to a for profit online company.

However, the biggest disappointment came right after we passed the ed. reform bill when I attended a subcommittee meeting concerning the funding for the state small class size initiative, which has been in effect for at least 10 years. The fund is due to sunset and needs legislative action to keep those resources going to schools.

The proposal is to take $20 million from this fund and “repurpose” that money toward the education reform bill. Many districts, including Mason City, use those funds to keep class sizes as small or to add a paraprofessional.

House File 2380 was approved on a 53-46 vote and now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

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