By Eric Goranson & Shane Vander Hart with contributions from William Gustoff

Maintaining the status quo in Iowa’s education system is not acceptable.  Most Iowans agree that change is needed if we want to provide the best for our children and improve the future standard of living in our state. We all agree that reforms should produce higher achievement and well equipped and professional educators. We also agree that reform cannot be put off for years or decades.

While we agree reform is needed there are diverging opinions on how to reform our education system. Some in the education community believe that more money for teacher salaries, infrastructure, and technology will solve our education problems.  Others believe the system has the money it needs and we that we must “crack down” on the system and whip it into shape.

At the American Principles Project, we believe that reforms will never result in higher student achievement and economic prosperity if those reforms are not built on the foundation of parental rights and involvement as well as efficiency and local control.  Parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children, not the State.  If we are not willing to build a comprehensive education reform plan around that simple truth, then our efforts will fail just as they have every time before.

Education reform efforts with huge outlays of cash and regulation have come and gone many times before. Yet here we are again. We postulate that the lack of lasting success in previous reform efforts in Iowa stems from taking the path of least resistance – centralization.  Change always brings resistance, and education reform is no different.  There are three things we believe will bring lasting success:  First, parents must be empowered.  Second, we need to find efficiencies and create options within the current system.  Finally, we must demand results, not compliance with rote regulations, from local authorities and educators in exchange for State aid.

The following is a brief summary of key points in Governor Branstad’s Education Blueprint. We applaud his willingness to tackle such a huge issue and there are a number of proposals in the Blueprint we should support. We’ll highlight those as well as outline areas of concern. We’ll use four criterion as we grade the Blueprint and some of its key pieces: parental involvement/parental rights, respect for local control, the impact on non-public options, and the common sense “smell test.”

We encourage you to read our report card below:

Iowa Ed Reform Report Card

Eric Goranson and Shane Vander Hart serve with American Principles Project Iowa. William R. Gustoff is with the Iowa Educational Freedom Alliance and a member of American Principles Project’s Iowa Advisory Board.

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