Iowa Limits Opportunity, Protects Status Quo

Learning, PreK-12 / by

The Globe Gazette reported that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is expected to sign a watered down ham-handed education bill “even though he and Department of Education Director Jason Glass agree it falls short of what they wanted.”

The Iowa legislative session ended with watered down education reform bill passing.  The bill lacked most of the Gov’s requested reforms including a mandatory college entrance exam, expansion of charter schools, alternative certification, and a prohibition against using seniority in layoffs.

Two virtual schools are allowed to open with significant restrictions including:

  • 900 student statewide enrollment cap
  • Additional cap not allowing more than 1% of a districts’ total enrollment to enroll in a virtual school.
  • Sunsetting both virtual schools after three years.
  • After three years, not allowing students to open enroll in virtual schools.
  • A taskforce to study and make recommendations for state board rules.

These provisions obviously have nothing to do with what’s good for students and everything to do with protecting school district budgets.  It’s embarrassing that Branstad would even consider signing a ridiculous set of provisions like this into law.

Everything about this bill is in direct opposition to Digital Learning Now, a state policy framework developed by a national group of experts in a process chaired by former governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise.  Digital Learning Now starts with the premise that all students are digital learners; all students deserve access to quality courses and teachers.

While the rest of the world begins to benefit from anywhere anytime learning, Iowa students will be limited to the courses offered by their local school.  This is a bad case of backpedaling at a time when governors and chiefs should be leading the way to personal digital learning.  Iowa kids deserve more.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is founder and CEO of Getting Smart. He is also a partner in Learn Capital and a director of iNACOL, Digital Learning Institute, Imagination Foundation, Charter Board Partners, Strive for College, and Bloomboard.

2 Comments

Madlyn Pope /

Maybe the legislature doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Jeb Bush and Digital Learning Now. They have that right.

Tom Vander Ark /

The legislature’s reliance on a state run program, Iowa Learning Online (ILO), could have made sense 15 years ago but it’s not a great plan now especially without any funding to invest in content development. When combined with the crazy patchwork of limitations placed on online learning, Iowa students and families will have dramatically limited options compared to families in most states.