The Iowa House and the Senate have now both passed different versions of education reform.
The areas where the bills agree are mainly around competency-based learning and the Iowa learning online initiative, a department of education based program that provides online classes to school districts on a class-by-class basis. Some minor agreements outside of those issues include annual reviews of teachers and administrators (though the Senate's language has two of every three years for teacher evaluations being peer reviews with no consequences), increased support for Project Lead the Way STEM classes, increased pay for National Board Certification, extending the student teaching experience, and providing for training of School Administration Managers, or SAMs.
That's where the similarities end.
What's missing that the House language included are areas that will help:
provide increased local control through home rule
parental choice in education through improved charter school language and increased online learning opportunities,
a way to foster innovation through a competitive grant process meant to boost student achievement
value-added assessments that assess student performance based on how a student's level of achievement has increased and not just based on where they are in relation to an arbitrary bar determined by their age and grade level
the ability to retain the best teachers by disallowing schools to make reduction in force decisions based on seniority over performance and the needs of the school
allowing the pool of available teachers to increase and bring in new talent by allowing for alternative pathways to licensure, so professionals in other fields can enter the teaching profession and bring their career experience with them into the classroom
protect religious schools from having to abide by state mandated curriculum requirements which may conflict with their religious tenets
the development of a meaningful evaluation system to be conducted annually which would help teachers improve
an accountability system for schools which would allow the local community to know how their local schools are doing and providing the pathway for schools that are doing outstanding jobs to be left with further autonomy
and a literacy initiative which recognizes that beyond third grade students are no longer learning to read, but should be reading to learn and would prevent students from being passed on from grade to grade when they aren't reading at an appropriate level for success.
The difference between the bills will mean a difficult process of conciliation that will result in either a meaningful step forward in education reform in the state, a simply a minor change for the good with a few agreed upon issues making the cut.
New license plates
Last week, the Iowa Department of Transportation began a license plate replacement program that will take the next ten years to complete. The new plates still feature the town and country landscape that was created in 1997, and although some very minor changes have been made to the plate-the Department of Transportation plans to use this same plate design well into the future. The only noticeable change to the plates is the change from blue ink to black ink for the alpha-numeric sequence.
The reason for the plate reissuance is because many plates have become faded and damaged-making them difficult to read. In order to save money, the Department of Transportation has decided to replace the license plates on a rolling cycle when someone pays their annual registration fee.
The plan is that this year plates that were originally issued in 1996 and 1997 will be replaced. In 2013, plates originally issued between 1998 and 2003 will be replaced. In, 2014 plates that were originally issued in 2004 will be replaced. Beyond 2014, plates will be replaced on a rolling, ten year cycle. For persons who have specialty plate, a current version of that plate will serve as the replacement.
When a person receives their annual registration renewal, they will be informed if their license plate needs to be replaced. The new plate will be issued upon renewal either in person at the county treasurer's office, or by mail. Persons can complete this renewal online (and receive the plates by mail). There is no cost for the replacement plate, but for those persons receiving the plates by mail, there will be a $3 mailing fee per set of plates. Old plates can be turned into the county treasurer's office or disposed of by the owner. If some persons wish to replace their plates before the assigned replacement time, they can do so for a $5 fee per set of plates.
More information on Iowa's license plates can be found at: www.iowadot.gov/mvd/ovs/plates/plates.htm#
Contact Rep. Dave Deyoe at 515-382-2352 or via email: Dave.Deyoe@legis.state.ia.us.