Parents weigh in on new Iowa House Education Reform Committee

When Iowa lawmakers head back to the statehouse in January, they’re expected to take up several education bills that never made it to the floor last session. Iowa House leaders plan to strengthen their focus on education with a new Education Reform committee in addition to a separate Education committee. Republican House speaker Pat Grassley will chair the new five-person committee that will focus on a “broad set of education reforms.” “This new committee will allow these important issues to be put in front of the entire caucus for the in-depth discussions they deserve,” Grassley said. Rep. Lindsay James (D-Dubuque) says Iowa Democrats aren’t sure what those reforms will be.”It’s really difficult to speculate,” James said. “When it’s talking about education reform, the concern is that this is just a committee to consider bad ideas like banning books, jailing teachers vouchers for our public schools.”Last session, state lawmakers took up several pieces of policy centered on education that never made it across the finish line. Increased school transparency, banning obscene materials in schools, reforming the Board of Educational Examiners, teacher licensees alternatives and a school choice program were all left on the table. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has spent the past two sessions pushing to bring school choice to Iowa. The program would use taxpayer dollars to help some Iowans pay for private school tuition.The plan has made it through the Iowa Senate but stalled in the Iowa House both years. This session, Reynolds says, “implementing school choice” is her “top priority.”That priority concerns Johnston mom Lya Williams. “In the long run, it’s going to end up lowering the credibility of our public school education,” Williams argues.”For me, it’s scary because…the public school vouchers, that’s not the direction we should be heading,” she said. “We should be looking at what resources we have to encourage the teachers we do have. And what resources do we have to encourage future teachers coming in?”However, Ankeny mom Torrie Bagley says she is open to learning more about school choice. But she hopes the committee prioritizes action on protecting parents’ rights.”You may think you know somebody’s child and how they act at school you may think you know what’s best, but you didn’t bring that child into the world. Therefore, I don’t believe you know what’s best,” Bagley said. “I know what’s best as a parent.”She also encourages lawmakers to revisit policy on school transparency.”I believe that if a teacher has something to hide, that’s worrisome. Of the teachers that I know, they are all for having some transparency in the classroom,” Bagley said. “So I am all for that.”But before getting to work on any policy, Johnston mom Sara Hayden Parris wants the committee’s main focus to center on increasing public school funding.”Honestly, my main point would be funding,” she said. “Tell me how you’re going to adequately fund our schools and then we can talk about the rest because if you don’t have the resources to support these initiatives, then they’re just empty promises.”

When Iowa lawmakers head back to the statehouse in January, they’re expected to take up several education bills that never made it to the floor last session.

Iowa House leaders plan to strengthen their focus on education with a new Education Reform committee in addition to a separate Education committee.

Republican House speaker Pat Grassley will chair the new five-person committee that will focus on a “broad set of education reforms.”

“This new committee will allow these important issues to be put in front of the entire caucus for the in-depth discussions they deserve,” Grassley said.

Rep. Lindsay James (D-Dubuque) says Iowa Democrats aren’t sure what those reforms will be.

“It’s really difficult to speculate,” James said. “When it’s talking about education reform, the concern is that this is just a committee to consider bad ideas like banning books, jailing teachers [and] vouchers for our public schools.”

Last session, state lawmakers took up several pieces of policy centered on education that never made it across the finish line. Increased school transparency, banning obscene materials in schools, reforming the Board of Educational Examiners, teacher licensees alternatives and a school choice program were all left on the table.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has spent the past two sessions pushing to bring school choice to Iowa. The program would use taxpayer dollars to help some Iowans pay for private school tuition.

The plan has made it through the Iowa Senate but stalled in the Iowa House both years.
This session, Reynolds says, “implementing school choice” is her “top priority.”

That priority concerns Johnston mom Lya Williams.

“In the long run, it’s going to end up lowering the credibility of our public school education,” Williams argues.

“For me, it’s scary because…the public school vouchers, that’s not the direction we should be heading,” she said. “We should be looking at what resources we have to encourage the teachers we do have. And what resources do we have to encourage future teachers coming in?”

However, Ankeny mom Torrie Bagley says she is open to learning more about school choice. But she hopes the committee prioritizes action on protecting parents’ rights.

“You may think you know somebody’s child and how they act at school [and] you may think you know what’s best, but you didn’t bring that child into the world. Therefore, I don’t believe you know what’s best,” Bagley said. “I know what’s best as a parent.”

She also encourages lawmakers to revisit policy on school transparency.

“I believe that if a teacher has something to hide, that’s worrisome. Of the teachers that I know, they are all for having some transparency in the classroom,” Bagley said. “So I am all for that.”

But before getting to work on any policy, Johnston mom Sara Hayden Parris wants the committee’s main focus to center on increasing public school funding.

“Honestly, my main point would be funding,” she said. “Tell me how you’re going to adequately fund our schools and then we can talk about the rest because if you don’t have the resources to support these initiatives, then they’re just empty promises.”

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