During Governor Terry Branstad’s Inaugural speech on Friday he laid out principles that would be part of his administration’s new covenant with the citizens of Iowa.  One of those principles centered around education.  He said that the fourth principle “must be a renewed commitment to provide the best education in the world.”  He noted that Iowa’s educational system is now in the middle of the pack after it had been at one time been “the envy of the world.”

I can wholeheartedly agree with that stated goal.  He went on to say:

Our young people must be able to think critically, solve problems and communicate effectively. 

They need a strong background in math, science, English and social studies.  The bar is continually being raised in a knowledge-based economy.

It is time to put in place reforms that are hallmarks of high-performing school systems – starting with assuring there is a first-rate teacher in every classroom.

The new year is an opportunity for Iowans to have a conversation about how to accomplish this.  How can we attract more top students into the teaching profession?  What do good, experienced teachers need to become more effective instructors? 

And how do we get rid of teachers whose students consistently do not learn enough – even after those teachers have received coaching to improve?

I plan to convene an education summit with some of the top education leaders in our nation and state to benchmark Iowa’s status and lay out a plan for legislative consideration that will give our kids the best education in the world.

But it is not just schools that must do more.  Teaching children the value of a good education is the job of parents.  Instilling the importance of lifelong learning not just by words but by example will help families and Iowa prosper.  It is time for all of us to get involved.

While reform is certainly needed within the public schools there is one glaring thing missing from this vision he put forth.  Choice.  Where is the mention of educational alternatives?  Why not talk about allowing free market approaches work within the educational system?  He says that parents need to teach children the value of education, and that is true.  But much more than that, parents are responsible for educating their children.  Is the state going to support that or will it get in the way?

Then with his idea of convening an education summit, what does he mean by educational leaders?  Are we talking the same educational bureaucrats who brought us the Iowa Core Curriculum and national core standards?  Will parents, local school boards, private school educators and home educators be brought into the process of helping craft educational policy?

Based on this speech and his recent education picks I am concerned.  I hope that his actual educational policies won’t be as myopic as the vision laid out in his inaugural address.

Originally posted at American Principles in Action

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  1. I’m not a big fan of Terry Branstad but do see him as a competent administrator, something sorely lacking in the last four years. Our schools are a big concern. They have become a huge black hole, sucking in any assets they can see; and no one seems to even question what really works and what doesn’t; and to recognize and even anticipate unintended consequences of policies. I am hopeful that his stint at DMU, which, by all accounts was very successful, gave him some insights into heatlh care delivery and education he may not have had from government service. The downward slide in education appears to have begun in his watch and I do believe he genuinely wants to fix it. It remains to be seen if he’ll be willing to truly analyze the system to expose its faults.

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