Governor Branstad was permitted to address the assembled legislators prior to the start of public testimony. He called on the legislators to “pass ambitious education reform” and outlined the Blueprint proposals. He addressed third-grade retention, saying that he was sympathetic that retention might be painful for the child, but that it is harder to be illiterate. He ended with, “Iowans are counting on you to be bold, not timid.”
More than seventy people signed up to speak. Each speaker was allotted three minutes and public comments were cut off after two hours. Ultimately, forty people were able to comment during the public hearing; written comments are invited, and those present were offered an informal opportunity to talk to legislators after the end of public testimony.
[Incidentally, I love the live House audio stream that allows me to listen in without leaving my house–the only real trick is knowing when a bill of interest will be debated.]
There were a mix of commenters in favor and against the bill or specific provisions of it. There were a few commenters generally in favor of or generally against the bill; most commenters focused on specific proposals. Commenters touched upon annual teacher evaluations, the use of value-added measures, competency-based education, the 3.0 GPA requirement to enter teacher preparation programs, alternative teacher certification, ACT/career-readiness exams for all high school juniors, innovation, third-grade literacy programs, lower class sizes, parental engagement programs, and a statewide tobacco-free schools provision.
Commenters spoke against the charter school and online-learning provisions. There seems to be suspicion that education reform will be used to funnel public money to private corporations who will provide substandard education services.
Many commenters also noted the need for local control over at least some decisions (like local control of professional development but in favor of statewide standards like the Iowa Core) and the need for more money.