Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What Happened to Education Reform?

The legislative session that began in January held such promise! The Governor proposed a broad based education reform package and noted that this was his number one priority for this legislative session. Some of  his proposals I agreed with; many of which I disagree with strongly and continue to do so to this day. Nonetheless, a clear and focused agenda was presented and the promise of a collaborative process was embarked upon. I held out hope that we would resolve the funding issues quickly, the education reform proposals would be negotiated and crafted in a manner that was palatable to all stakeholders, and we would be able to set about the work of planning for the 2013-2014 school year in earnest. The Governor was clear in his intentions that before the issue of basic school aide was settled (allowable growth), the reform must come first. Both chambers set about their work.

In the House, the legislators began working through the proposals.

In the Senate, the legislators began working through allowable growth.

The Senate moved 4% allowable growth rather quickly, passing it along party lines and sending it to the House for action, where it landed without much ceremony and just sat there. Then the Senate began the task of working on the education reform bill. 

A modified and scaled back version of the House bill passed along party lines and was subsequently sent to the Senate, where it landed without much ceremony and just sat there. A few weeks later, a different version was passed in the Senate, again along party lines and was sent back to the House (where it landed without much ceremony and just sat there).

Along comes the second funnel date. In Iowa, for a bill to remain active, it must pass through one chamber and a subcommittee in the opposing chamber. For a few days it really looked like this was going to fall apart, until the Senate education committee decided to take up the House version of the bill. This committee ended up striking the entire language of the House bill and passed it (again along party lines) where it landed in the house...without much ceremony and just sat there.

Eventually the bill was assigned to a conference committee of equal parts House/Senate and Democrat/Republican. There task: negotiate a bi-partisan agreement. During the first few meetings of the committee they discussed the rules, appointed leadership, and the rational behind their proposals-but didn't really get to a whole lot of negotiating. 

Well, at this point there has been some negotiating which is really great news. The bad news is that there hasn't really been anything formal in quite some time. I would really be okay with that....if it were February. But here is the problem folks. The session is scheduled to end on Friday. That is 3 days from now. Now, we have all certified our budgets and have begun to make our plans for next year, but the problem is that there is only so much we can do.

We are pretty lucky here in Hudson this year because we didn't have to lay anyone off. I know a lot of school districts across the state that had to send out reduction notices yesterday because these issues aren't settled. Now, that doesn't mean that we are free and clear. We actually would like to do the opposite: hire some staff. The problem we have is the same thing: we can't until we know how much funding will be available to hire this staff. 

I am no longer hopeful that there will be quick resolution, and have resigned myself to the fact that there may not be resolution at all. This will undoubtedly mean that districts across the state will have to move forward with reductions in force. This means that we will have to delay our hiring plans and put our goal of reducing class sizes in the elementary school at jeopardy. 

Where do we go from here? I guess we will all just have to wait...without much ceremony and just sit here.

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