The creation of new laws, or lack thereof, neither ensures nor hinders real change. As I have navigated the many conversations around education, I’ve identified key issues I hope we continue to work on regardless of what legislation becomes law.
Issue #1: Our continual investment in education reaps high returns for Iowa, our communities, our families, and students. It is a must!
Issue #2: Our teachers deserve our respect as professionals who continue to serve in constantly changing, and at times challenging, environments.
Issue #3: Educational environments continue to be characterized by a diversity of experiences, cultures, and values. We need to continue to emphasize respect and freedom of speech & expression rather than focusing on specific expressions.
Issue #4: School leadership needs to enforce their policies of prohibiting teachers from promoting religious, political, and social agendas. Iowa has far too many occurrences of these policies being ignored. School Boards, administrators need to speak up and challenge policy breaches. Parents (and legislators) need to hear “push-back” coming from the educational community.
Issue #5: “Above-and-beyond” communication and engagement are required between school leadership and parents. Connecting, listening, and responding to parental concerns needs to be a high priority for school leadership teams. Engagement, volunteering, and serving in our schools needs to be a high priority for parents. No doubt we see good evidence in certain areas of school life, but not all. The barrier of “we” vs “them” must be broken down by both sides and serving our kids needs to become the focus.
Issue #6: The importance of education requires continual creativity and innovation in and outside of existing systems. We cannot place inappropriate limitations on our exploration. And throughout our exploration, we need to continually ask: 1) Does it fulfill an important “why” for enhancing the education of our children? 2) Will it unnecessarily damage our existing systems? 3) Does the benefit of the innovation compensate for the disruption of the change?
Again, as we continue to journey through discussions around school transparency and school choice, don’t forget legislation isn’t always required to address issues and bring change.
An update: School Choice has passed through the Iowa Senate. In its current form, the Iowa House has yet to have the necessary support. Negotiations continue between the House and the Senate on budget bills, school transparency, reform of unemployment insurance, the bottle bill, and the host of other bills.