2017 Will Bring More Opportunity to Repeal Common Core in Iowa

It looks like there will finally be some opportunities in Iowa to pass legislation that will roll back Common Core and Smarter Balanced in my home state. Three events have taken place that are promising.

1. Republicans win the Iowa Senate and now control the Legislature.

We’ve had a split legislature that for the most part guaranteed status quo. That will not be the case for the next two sessions at least. Republicans not only won the Iowa Senate, but they won big flipping the Senate to a 29 to 19 majority (there will be a special election at the end of the month to replace State Senator Joe Seng who passed away). Not only that, but Iowa House Republicans expanded their majority in the House by two seats and have a 59 to 41 majority.

So while that doesn’t guarantee positive action it, at the very least, makes it a possibility.

2. Anti-Common Core legislators now chair the legislative education committees.

This is huge news because before any good bill was pretty much guaranteed to be assigned to a subcommittee to die. That should change in 2017.

State Representative Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls), who was a co-sponsor on all of the anti-Common Core legislation in the past, is now the chair of the Iowa House Education Committee. Complementing him State Senator Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton) will chair the Iowa Senate Education Committee. Sinclair also was involved in the anti-Common Core and Smarter Balanced legislation in the Senate.

This is an exciting development.

3. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has been appointed U.S. Ambassador to China.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who is pro-Common Core, has been appointed U.S. Ambassador to China by President-elect Donald Trump. He is likely to be confirmed. Branstad has been a significant roadblock to legislation addressing Common Core, the Next Generation Science Standards and Smarter Balanced. In fact the only related bill to make it to his desk, a delay to Smarter Balanced that was included in an appropriations bill, he line-item vetoed.

Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds who will be his successor when he resigns has not taken a public stand for or against Common Core, the Next Generation Science Standards, or Smarter Balanced.

On education policy there is certainly some uncertainty, but she has the chance to make her mark and differentiate herself from Branstad. There is promise she will be a more conservative governor than Branstad was. Let’s hope that includes education policy.

The timeline for Branstad’s departure is uncertain. He has said he will wait to resign his seat until he confirmed so we could be well into the new legislative session before that happens. If that is the case the 2018 legislative session may provide a greater opportunity than 2017.

Common Core Bills Filed in Iowa House


Originally posted at Iowans for Local Control.

State Representative Tedd Gassman (R-Scarville) introduced a bill, HF 2141, that directs the Iowa Department of Education to pull out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  It has been cosponsored by State Representatives Sandy Salmon (R-Denver), Dwayne Alons (R-Hull), Larry Sheets (R-Moulton), Greg Heartsill (R-Columbia), Dave Maxwell (R-Gibson), Tom Shaw (R-Laurens), John Landon (R-Ankeny), Ralph Watts (R-Adel), Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) and Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls).

This bill has been assigned to a subcommittee whose members are:

They can also be reached on the Capitol switchboard – (515) 281-3221.

Please contact these members and respectfully ask them to support HF 2141 so it can be considered by the entire House Education Committee.  Focus on the cost of the assessments.  The Iowa Department of Education plans, if allowed by the State Legislature, to utilize the full suite of assessments provided by Smarter Balanced which will cost Iowans $27.30 per student per assessment.  Iowa currently pays $3.50 per student per assessment for the Iowa Assessments.  We simply can not afford this.  Also this does not take into consideration the cost of scoring the assessments and not every school district in Iowa is set up to meet the technology requirements.

Also there are data collection concerns related to Smarter Balanced agreement with the U.S. Department of Education.

The 2nd bill that Gassman introduced is HF 2140.  It would make the Iowa Core (along with the Common Core) voluntary and strikes language in the Iowa Code giving the State Board of Education the authority to change the standards.

This bill is cosponsored by State Representatives Heartsill, Schultz, Maxwell, Salmon, Alons, Sheets, Shaw, Fisher, Landon, Watts, Rogers and Stan Gustafson (R-Cumming).

It also has been assigned to a subcommittee consisting of:

They can also be reached on the Capitol switchboard – (515) 281-3221.

Please respectfully request that they support HF 2140.  We encourage you to focus on these points:

  • It restores local control.  School districts can tailor standards according to the needs of their students and exceed the quality of the current Iowa Core with the subpar Common Core Math and English-Language Arts standards.  Parents should be able to have a voice in what their child learns and how.  Education policy should be decided by those who are most directly accountable to the people – elected school boards.
  • Iowa should retain sovereignty over our standards, not cede control to special interest groups and trade organizations or to the Federal government.  This is done best keeping the decision-making at the local level.  An unelected board should not be allowed to function as the executive and legislative branch.  There is no accountability.
  • The quality of the Common Core State Standards is questionable.  Dr. Sandra Stotsky, a member of the validation committee for the Common Core English Language Arts standards, states that the ELA standards would put our students college readiness at risk.  Dr. James Milgram, a member of the validation committee for the Common Core Math Standards, will not adequately prepare our students for STEM.
  • The Common Core Math & ELA standards (in Iowa Core) are developmentally inappropriate for younger students.
  • Our U.S. History standards have been given an F and our science standards a D by the Fordham Institute.  Local school districts can do better.
  • It’s data-less reform.  We are rolling out a grand experiment in our schools.  There is no evidence that centralizing education around a set of common standards will raise student achievement.  The Common Core State Standards in particular were never field tested and they were written by a lead team of writers with no classroom experience.  Only two of the five lead writers had experience writing standards.