"Iowa children deserve a rich, well-rounded education," said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad in opening a Tama County town hall meeting in Toledo on Tuesday, Nov. 15. "Promoting good character and citizenship" goes hand-in-hand with the education process," the Governor said.
With that, Branstad declared the present achievement levels of Iowa students "not acceptable."
The stop at the Reinig-Toledo Civic Center by Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Branstad is what the Governor said had a dual purpose: their state-wide effort to present the administration's "blueprint for education transformation" and to gather input to refine the plan before it is presented to the 2012 session of the Iowa Legislature.
LEFT- Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds present aspects of their plan to revise eduction in Iowa during a town hall meeting at the Reinig -Toledo Civic Center on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
Linda Fandel, special assistant for education, was also on the Tuesday tour, part of what is described an effort to reach all 99 counties.
That gathering of input already has had an impact. On Thursday news reports said the blueprint plan has been backed off on a portion which proposed a four-tier teacher pay system.
Among the 35 persons on hand Tuesday were some members of the South Tama School Board, STC administrators and teachers who joined area business persons, political leaders and other citizens
Branstad along with Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds lamented what they characterized as an Iowa educational system which has been "stagnant since 1993" in advancements compared to some other states.
The Governor said Iowa had fallen from being the educational leader to mid-range in the 50 states in reading and math test scores. In making the case, Branstad and Reynolds said Iowa students must be well educated to "compete for jobs in a global economy."
South Tama Schools
South Tama has been labeled a school district "in need of assistance" in the federal No Child Left Behind program, one of 29 in the state this year due to test scores at certain grade levels. Advancement by students in reading and math are cited as deficient in some grade levels in the district.
Both Iowa and South Tama education leaders have questioned the validity of the testing due to demographics and other considerations. They charge the test results do not accurately reflect the actual progress being made in the schools.
In response to a question Tuesday from South Tama Superintendent Kerri Nelson, Branstad noted a request for waiver from No Child Left Behind has been made by the Iowa Department of Education.
Both the Governor and Lt. Governor admitted implementation of the blueprint will take three- to five years and Branstad said full results may not be felt for ten years.
He insisted the program which emerges must be "sustainable and not end up on a shelf."
Yvonne Mallory, a teacher and vice president and member of the Iowa Valley Community College District School Board, questioned the Governor on financing for the blueprint.
While not being specific, Branstad said an evaluation of state funds and shifting of available money would be a possible source. He also pointed to a proposed change which would make teachers responsible to pay a portion of their health insurance could free up some funding.
"We (need to) work with parents to fulfill their responsibility to their children," Branstad said.
He also emphasized community involvement and resources in schools is vital - "We can't expects schools to do it all."