Local legislators talk education reform

The Iowa House passed an education reform package this week, and two local House representatives said what they liked and didn’t like about it at a forum Friday at the Fisher Community Center.

Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, said he approved the 2 percent increase in state aid to schools so they will at least get something.

“We thought that’s better than nothing,” Smith said.

Rep. Dean Fisher, R-Garwin, said he likes that the plan includes career ladders for teachers saying it makes “common sense.” Fisher also believes true education reform should come from within the educational system not from legislators.

Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, said the Iowa Senate has yet to take up the education reform discussion, but there is one main thing he would like to see in it. He said dual language programs should be offered across the state – where students can learn two languages concurrently beginning in kindergarten, like what is offered in Marshalltown schools. He said other countries teach two languages at the same time, and it would help Iowa students compete globally.

“I think that’s real reform,” Sodders said.

Fisher disagreed with Sodders saying the state has to do a better job of teaching the basics.

“Teach them the basics before we start adding some ornaments on the Christmas tree,” Fisher said.

Sodders has been working on a proposal to build a public safety training facility for the state’s fire, police and EMS professionals.

“I do have some folks on both sides of the aisle that are interested in doing something,” Sodders said.

Fisher said work in the House has been quite a ride for him in his first term.

“It’s a lot busier than I anticipated,” he said.

Smith looks forward to hosting community members Wednesday for the annual Marshalltown summit day at the State Capitol offered by the chamber.

“It’s a great day to showcase our community,” Smith said.

Friday’s forum was hosted by the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by RACOM.