Many members of the Republican Party are launching an assault on public education in Iowa. The Republican Party is focusing on providing Iowans, who wish to opt-out of their public school, a voucher/scholarship to a school which better meets their needs. This system has the potential to dilute the comprehensive nature of our public schools.
I encourage people to consider the current goals of public education in Iowa. As a result of economic changes, we need a renewed effort to consider how to best prepare students for their future careers and learning. Public schools currently are expected to meet many goals and services. These include learning in reading, math, science, social studies, fine arts and career education. A further goal that schools are expected to meet is the entertainment (athletics and fine arts) needs of the community. The diverse and numerous needs may dilute what is most important for schools to focus on in the future.
Governor Brandstad in 2013 led an effort that had bipartisan support that reset goals for Iowa schools. The goals were teacher-coaches, enhanced elementary literacy expectations, and improve online learning (Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 3, 2013).
The time has arrived to begin a robust conversation including multiple community and statewide representatives to clarify what are the goals and reset them for Iowa’s public schools in the future. The Brookings Institute launched a report (Oct. 12, 2020) entitled, “Ideas to redesign k-12 education for the automation age.” Some of the ideas include a greater focus for students to begin career development within the community at a much earlier age. A further focus is to personalize learning which may lead to instruction designed to meet the students' interests and strengths. State leaders need to step up with every community and their school board to lead a process to refocus on one to three goals for the future of teaching and learning. The goals should reflect the community aspirations and employment needs.