Business Leaders Inject Themselves In Iowa Education Reform Debate

The Des Moines Register reports that business leaders will start lobbying for education reform efforts in when the Iowa General Assembly starts their new session.

The partnership is organizing the summit along with the Iowa Chamber Alliance, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry and the Iowa Business Council. The groups expect up to 150 business leaders to attend the summit.

“We haven’t had a collective voice up at the Capitol addressing this issue,” said Bontrager, adding that legislators have said they want to hear from business leaders about why the state’s education system needs to change.

Business leaders complain that workers lack the skills — particularly in math and science — that highly competitive global companies need to grow.

Bontrager said the business groups will push for education reforms recommended by Gov. Terry Branstad. They focus on recruiting and retaining talented educators, establishing measurable high expectations, fostering school innovation and encouraging parental involvement.

When will there be a lobbyist for parents?  Businesses, while they certainly have something to contribute to the education reform discussion, are not the chief stakeholder in education.  Education’s sole role is not to produce workers for their industries.  We’ve placed such a high emphasis on college and career-ready kids and on STEM measures that we’re going to suffer in other fields of work.  Not to mention what kind of an impact we’ll see on kids’ creativity.

What I’ve typically seen business leaders endorse are these reforms: “high standards” (read Common Core), charter schools (as if no other school choice measures can be effective) and STEM (as if English, Literature, History, Civics, etc. are not important topics).  “Getting behind” Governor Branstad’s education reforms will not help foster school innovation and since his reform does not empower parental choice in education it doesn’t encourage parental involvement. 

I hope Iowa’s business leaders will embrace ideas beyond what we’ve seen the business community embrace before in other states.  Get behind reforms such as alternate certification for teachers or a greater emphasis on local communities creating quality standards – get parents, teachers & the community involving (including businesses).

About Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart founded Iowans for Local Control in 2012 which later merged with Iowa RestorEd. Shane also is the founder and editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Thoughts and the founder and president of 4:15 Communications, LLC, a social media & communications consulting/management firm.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Google +.

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