Here is an approximate transcript of comments I made at a League of Women Voters’ Legislative Forum in January:
I am interested in education reform and I have yet to see any compelling reason that all of these education decisions need to be made at the state level. There are, however, compelling reasons not to. Here are a few.First, diversity. State level decision making requires uniformity, one-size-fits-all rules, that can’t meet the needs of all students and all communities.Second, real innovation isn’t possible when the state micromanages everything from teacher personalities to how they teach to what is taught and when. If kids can read at grade level or are prepared for authentic algebra by 8th or 9th grade, what difference does it make how we get there or if districts choose to get there in different ways?Third, making these decisions at the state level makes it difficult for local parents, teachers, and community members to meaningfully participate in shaping our local schools. The Department of Education and State Board can’t know our students and our communities better than we do and they are almost entirely unaccountable to us.I ask all of you to reconsider whether the move away from local control is actually good for Iowa students and trust that we care about the success of our students. And given the opportunity, we can debate these issues locally and make decisions that are at least as good as those the Department of Education and State Board make, if not better.
Too often the focus of the comments seems to be on how legislators can make better education policy decisions rather than whether they should be making these particular education policy decisions.