Education reform hot topic at Capitol

DES MOINES – Plans to get Iowa back among national leaders in education have been bandied about through the State Capitol during the current legislative session, as visitors from Marshalltown learned Wednesday.

It was one of the main topics during the Des Moines Summit trip sponsored by the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce, as area residents met with lawmakers.

Gov. Terry Branstad has made his education reform proposal, and the Iowa House has passed a reform bill. The Senate is taking up the bill and expected to tweak the House reform measures.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle agree something needs to be done to improve student achievement in the state.

Iowa formerly ranked among the leaders in education in the nation and now finds itself in the middle of the pack.

“I don’t think we can afford to continue to drop,” Branstad said.

One thing the Senate is looking at is ways to help those communities with poverty issues or that need help with English Language Learners – which would benefit Marshalltown.

“We think we need to address the impact of poverty,” said Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames.

Rep. Ron Jorgensen, R-Sioux City, said the time is now to get something done on education reform and not just throw money at the problem.

“People want reform,” Jorgensen said.

Both Jorgensen and Quirmbach are on the education committees of their respective chambers and among the foremost experts on education reform in the state.

The lack of setting allowable growth funding for schools in a timely manner is continuing to affect districts as they try to plan their budgets.

“Our school districts are tearing their hair out trying to do budgets,” Quirmbach said.