Change proposed in governor’s ‘Students First Act’ regarding testing requirements

DES MOINES — Republicans in the Iowa House are proposing a change in a state law passed just two weeks ago.

Under that new law, private school students whose parents get state-funded savings accounts are required to take all required state and federal tests. The bill would keep the requirement for the annual Iowa Statewide Assessment of Students Progress, but it would be up to a private school parent to decide if their child takes other tests to track their literacy skills.

Eric Goranson, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of Christian Schools, said the proposed change in the new law is a pleasant surprise. “Many parents come to our schools because they like the way we assess,” Goranson said, “because they like the way we instruct.”

Opponents of the proposal say the literacy tests gauge a student’s progress in reading and comprehension and will give policymakers a chance to compare how public and private school students getting state support are progressing. Representative Molly Buck, a Democrat from Ankeny, said the testing is about making sure schools are being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

“I think that this accountability measure that’s in the original bill is a way for us to make sure that the money that we are giving is doing what it’s intended to do,” Buck said, “and that kids are keeping up with the standards that we’ve set.”

Republican Representative Taylor Collins of Mediapolis voted for the change as it was considered in a House subcommittee. “I’ve said once and I’ll say it again — accountability is best left to parents,” Collins said.

House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfst said the testing requirements led some reluctant Republicans to vote for the new law.  “We’re also going to say: ‘I told you so…that private schools were not going to be held accountable,” Konfrst said.

Later today, Governor Reynolds is scheduled to be at the American Enterprise Institution in Washington, D.C. to discuss her “Students First” program. When fully implemented, it will let any family apply for state funds to cover private school expenses