Does Branstad's education plan make the grade? - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Does Branstad's education plan make the grade?


Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is calling for higher standards for students and teachers in the state's public schools.

The priorities he laid out Friday follow the education blueprint he first released in October, focusing on initiatives he'd like to see pass in 2012.

Branstad says Iowa's education has fallen from first in the nation two decades ago, to the middle of the pack.

"It's about making sure that Iowa students have opportunities and that doors are opened for them because they received the very best education, and we recognize that a quality education is key to having the skills for the jobs and the careers of the future," said Gov. Branstad.

Branstad estimates his plan would cost an additional 25-million dollars each year.  He'll propose how to raise that money when he sends a budget to the Legislature, which convenes Monday.

Local educators got their first look at the proposal Friday.           

"Teachers are working very hard now," said Donna Walsh.

She's spent years in the classroom, first kindergarten, now 2nd grade, and she also represents teachers, as president of the Sioux City Education Association.  She's excited about the additional support the Branstad Administration is willing to give teachers like herself, but unsure of some of his other proposals.

"I think holding them back in 3rd grade would be a problem both money-wise and when you try to advance them to 4th grade," she explained.

The Governor's placed a priority on reading, saying that a student's proficiency would determine whether they moved out of 3rd grade.

"3rd grade is that pivotal age where you focus on learning the skills of reading, so you can use reading to learn other things.  We do want to continue to say however, that we can't simply focus on 3rd grade," Sioux City Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Gausman added.

Preschoolers would also be assessed, though it wouldn't preclude them from entering kindergarten.  At the high school level, students would take exit exams, while the 11th Grade student assessment would be replaced by the ACT or SAT.

"There are a lot of students that want to take college entrance exams, but there are also those who want to enter the workforce upon graduation," though Chris Hall, a Democrat in the State House.

"Philosophically I love the concept.  Frankly, it would be something we'd be doing already if we could find a way to afford it," said Gausman.

"I do think there's a roll for testing.  One of those roles is to mitigate social promotion, passing those students on from year to year," said Republican House Member Jeremy Taylor.

Taylor is also a high school English teacher.  He says he'll be watching the proposals closely as they move through the legislature.

'"That sounds like a good proposal, but this is what works in the real world.  Are those dollars making their way into the classrooms?" explained Taylor.

The governor's also proposing state standards for art, physical education, and music.

"Many of the items in there are maybe not the end result that we would desire, but are important to discuss," said Gausman, doubting there would be progress on every proposal.

Taylor and Hall both say they expect a lot of discussion to come out of the Governor's blueprint.

"I'm sure with this proposal there will be some things that I think are positive, and I can almost guarantee that there will be some things that I disagree with," Taylor admitted.

"At its baseline the discussion needs to be about whether this will or won't improve student achievement," added Hall.

 Another piece of the original proposal taken out of the final recommendation is the four-tier teacher's salary based on seniority.  It's replaced with one based more on merit.

Expected Cost of the Branstad Plan:

Annual Education Evaluation: $500,000

Revamping State Standards(including music, foreign language, & P.E.): $1 Million

Kindergarten Readiness: $300,000

High School Exit Exams: $2 Million

Charter Schools: $500,000

Education Task Force: $100,000

Literacy Initiative (Pre-K-3rd Grade): $10 Million


Total: $25 Million



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