Iowa Governor Terry E. Branstad has launched a blog designed to highlight his education agenda. The blog, will be maintained by Branstad’s special assistant for education, Linda Fandel. According to the blog, the Branstad administration hopes that they can have a “conversation about how Iowa schools can once again be the envy of the nation, and assure Iowa’s young people are globally competitive.”
The blog launches in the wake of weeks of protests in Iowa and across the midwest as Governor Branstad and his regional counterparts attempt to end the collective bargaining rights of public employees including teachers — rights which they say are harmful to state budgets. The Governor is also pushing for cuts in higher education, a move which sparked a separate protest by local university students in the capitol yesterday. Presently, Iowa has a $900 million budget surplus.
Iowa ranks 2nd highest in the nation for student ACT scores. But, a post on the Governor’s blog claims that other indicators of educational quality are slipping, as a result of the state’s failure to implement educational reforms that have been successful in other states. The post did not outline exactly what reforms the Governor considers to be successful, it did point to Massachusetts’ increased student performance in math. Public employees in Massachusetts have collective bargaining rights under state law.
On his own website, the Governor says that in order for Iowa’s educational performance to improve, the state must ensure that qualified teachers are in every classroom and that the state must work toward improving math, science, English and social studies education. Despite these goals, the Governor is supporting several measures that make deep cuts to education and are currently working their way through the Iowa legislature. The cuts include: changing the state’s free preschool program to a paid program with scholarships, funding freezes for K-12 education and a multi-million dollar cut to funding for the state’s regents universities.
Visitors to the blog will be able to comment on Fandel’s posts. Fandel plans to cover education reform in the state along with providing links to relevant news, publications and other education blogs.
“Iowa schools can be world-class if we adopt the changes that are the hallmarks of high-performing school systems, starting with getting a great teacher in every classroom,” said Fandel. “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to find the political will to do this.”