Branstad the Iowa School Start Date Dictator?



BranstadLooking at the education policy wasteland in Iowa we have a House bill that was passed by a majority of Republicans who evidently checked their local control principles at the door, but it at least doesn’t expand the Iowa Core.  We have a Senate bill that was just passed yesterday on a party line vote which does expand the Iowa Core.  I’m not sure what the final version of the Senate Bill does for non-public schools as the House bill was better in that regard.  The verdict needs to be withheld until after the conference trying to reconcile the two bills, many lawmakers believe education overhaul is unlikely.  Which I with careful optimism say would be preferable to what was in Governor Branstad’s original education bill, but we still may end up with a horrible bill.

Sausage-making is ugly business.

Today the Iowa House is debating the issue of school start dates to which I say (predictably I’m sure) let schools, not the state, decide.  Governor Branstad seems to think it is best for him to decide however.  He said in his weekly press conference that he’d consider acting to stop schools from having earlier start dates.

Branstad said in his weekly press conference Monday morning that he shared those concerns, and would be willing to direct the Department of Education to stop granting start-date waivers if lawmakers fail to enact restrictions into law.

“If the Legislature fails to act, I think that might be something that we would seriously look at,” he said.

Now he can direct the Department of Education to do that if he likes, he has the authority current state law allows it.  It would seem pretty heavy handed and again be a slap in the face of local control.  I mean really?  We can’t trust elected school boards and accredited nonpublic schools to make a decision on when to start school?  I don’t always agree with Des Moines Dem at Bleeding Heartland, but she made a good point today, “Branstad has a long history of putting business interests first, but even I’m shocked he would take a stand against early school start dates when he’s been urging legislators for months to make boosting student achievement a top priority.”

It does seem counterintuitive.  I understand the reasons behind the bill.  I personally think it is ridiculous for a school to start before the State Fair and then to spend money taking a field trip to the Iowa State Fair.  I don’t believe schools need to start super early, but since the Iowa State Fair ends on August 19th, what’s the problem with schools starting on the 20th?  Why do they have to wait until September 1st?  Then again if the school board, teachers and parents want to start earlier than that what I think is irrelevant.

Anyway back to my point is that it is better for school boards to decide, and not have the Governor dictate their start date to them.  If they want to wait until September 1 good for them.  If parents don’t like an earlier start date they can take it up with the school board whom they elected.  They however have no recourse if they want to start early but have their school district’s waiver denied by some nameless bureaucrat in the Iowa Department of Education.

Governor Branstad has the authority to make such a decision, but he’ll just look like a bully and a dictator if he does.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=762605011 Kedron Bardwell

    I couldn’t agree with you more.  Not only a strike against local control, but also against innovation.  We want local schools to be laboratories for reform, so that new ideas emerge that improve learning for our kids.  What’s shocking in this debate is how few of the mandatory start date proponents (incl. Branstad and Republicans, sadly) discussed student learning AT ALL in their arguments.  Biz/tourism interests: 1, students: 0.  I hope Branstad reconsiders his support.