Jeff Kaufmann
Former State Representative Jeff Kaufmann spoke on Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s behalf at the Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner.

I wasn’t able to attend the Republican Party of Iowa Lincoln Dinner last week and was alerted to comments made by former State Representative Jeff Kaufmann on behalf of Governor Terry Branstad.  He spoke right after Branstad’s primary challenger, Tom Hoefling, spoke criticizing Governor Branstad for his support of the Common Core.

Here is the video of Kaufmann’s remarks on CSPAN:


He specifically brought up education.  Kaufmann said, “Governor Branstad and Lieutenant (Governor) Reynolds have put transformational, educational reform on the docket.  The first tuition freeze in 30 years in our Regents and we’re looking for another.  They are giving more independence to homeschoolers and private schools, and this is very important, they have signed an executive order that assures that Iowans are fully in control of their educational standards and curriculum.  Not the Federal government, not any other organization, only in Iowa and as a former school board president and a county supervisor thank you for their belief in local control in education.”

Kaufmann during his remarks mentioned a couple of different times that “this is not rhetoric, it’s results.”  Unfortunately his statement on local control and education standards is just that.

Governor Branstad has even been reported to say that he rejected Common Core.  He seems quite confused on the matter.

Let me be clear, again, Governor Branstad did not reject the Common Core.  Governor Branstad does not believe in local control there is NOTHING in his entire time as Governor that would indicate that.  To Governor Branstad and Mr. Kaufmann I would say you keep using that phrase “local control” I do not think it means what you think it means.  Centralization of education in Iowa began under Governor Branstad’s watch.  Anybody remember forced school consolidations in the 80s and 90s being directed by the Iowa Department of Education?  Then we have his push to control school start times, the bullying bill he’s pushing, and today he even signed a bill requiring school districts and accredited non-public schools to share their radon testing and mitigation plans with the Iowa Department of Education.  There has been nothing, but mandates or the desire to implement mandates on public schools.

That doesn’t even touch what he desired to do in his first education reform bill and agenda which, fortunately, did not go through as originally written.

With Governor Branstad’s executive order we slammed the barn door closed after the horse got out.  I addressed this at Iowans for Local Control, and  I want to republish some of what I wrote here:

During his press conference on Monday when he discussed progress made on the education reform package passed last year. Branstad said he’s “tried to make it extremely clear that Iowa has our own standards…”

Yes we have the Iowa Core which consists of math, English language arts, social studies, science, and 21st Century learning skills.  During the Iowa House Education Committee meeting Rosie Hussey, the president of the Iowa State Board of Education and Dr. Brad Buck, director of the Iowa Department of Education, shared a presentation on the Iowa Core and Common Core and indicated that for Iowa’s math and ELA standards, Iowa has added 15%, but Common Core is the base.

So 85% of our standards were written by outside groups.

If you read through Governor Branstad’s executive order there is no rejection of the Common Core.

State Representative Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls) asked Dr. Buck what impact Governor Branstad’s executive order actually has.  Dr. Buck said Branstad “Declared that Iowa will remain in control of standards.  We will not give student-level data to the Feds or proxy of the Feds.  There will be a review process.”  He added they will respect local control.  “We do trust local school boards.  This was an affirmation of what we are already doing as a state.”

The executive order said school districts can choose curriculum.  There is a point of dispute whether Iowa can claim control of Common Core (minus the 15% they added) due to them being copyrighted by the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a non-profit created by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers.  Also the order did not mention any “proxy of the Feds.”

But to the larger point Governor Branstad, at least from Dr. Buck’s point of view, did not reject the Common Core.

In regards to curriculum, schools were able to choose curriculum before, but it makes precious little difference when 46 states, who have embraced the Common Core at least in part, are driving the textbook and curriculum market toward “Common Core-aligned” resources.  It’s like saying “you can choose anything you want as long as its Common Core.”  The only way for that to change is for states to pull out, for real, not just rebranding. With the Common Core though it is full steam ahead.  Also the Branstad administration is still going after Federal education grants which come with Federal strings attached.  The Iowa Department of Education is still working toward implementing the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment with several school district piloting the assessment this year.

Hoefling in a press release sent yesterday stated, “I don’t know why they think they can get away with this, frankly. It is obvious to any honest observer that Terry Branstad continues to support Common Core, and that he has done nothing of any real substance in this legislative session to stop it. It is also clear that the Branstad executive order from last October that they constantly cite did nothing to stop the implementation of Common Core. That was, to put it simply, a political smokescreen, and everybody who has looked into this question closely knows it.”

Hoefling added, “Support for the Common Core standards, which amount to the final blow against any remaining vestige of local control of our schools, is bad enough. But when the Governor and his campaign staffers go out on the campaign trail and try to deceive the people of this state, that takes things to a whole new level. It is now more than just a disagreement over public policy. It is a question of honesty and integrity.”

I agree.  When it comes to the Common Core and his so called belief in local control in education the rhetoric just plain rings hollow.

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