The political winds have already started to drift through the media and into our homes in anticipation of next year's presidential election. For obvious reasons, much of the rhetoric is focused on the economy and job creation. There is little doubt that these will be the paramount issues of debate through next November.
Given the well-known fact that a better education is generally the pathway to better paying jobs, at some point the potential candidates will need to momentarily quit sparring about the economy and discuss their stance on how we can improve our schools and provide equal educational opportunities for everyone.
The process of education reform in Iowa has already started in recent weeks when Gov. Terry Branstad rolled out his administration's proposal entitled: One Unshakable Vision: World-Class Schools for Iowa. The reformation is scheduled to unfold over the next decade to create a world class education system. The bold proposals are admirable and the administration is to be applauded for embracing the challenges modern-day educators are facing. What remains unclear to many is how the plan will be fully deployed in schools throughout the state. Time will tell the story about the success of the Governor's call for education reform, and everyone will reap the benefits if the components embedded in the plan achieve measureable levels of success.
However, a committed group of Marshalltown area community leaders has decided not to wait. Realizing that the local education system is an essential investment for all aspects associated with a high quality of life throughout the Marshalltown community, representatives from the Chamber, business and industry, Marshalltown Public Schools, and Iowa Valley Community College District have formed an alliance committed to working together to improve our schools.
Identifying and removing barriers to expand educational opportunities; actively engaging business leaders and educators to determine necessary skills in the workplace; improving community perceptions and attitudes about education; developing a unified front to ensure parents recognize the value of education; and providing "one voice advocacy" for policies and issues affecting education excellence have been established as the primary goals.
In 1983, President Reagan was quoted: "Certainly there are few areas of American life as important to our society, to our people, and to our families as our schools and colleges." The grassroots efforts of the Marshalltown Business and Education Alliance exemplify this timeless statement and their relentless passion, dedication and efforts are highly commended.
Christopher Duree is Chancellor of Iowa Valley Community College District, which operates Marshalltown Community College, Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa Valley Continuing Education, and a satellite campus in Grinnell.