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Key GOP lawmakers say student test scores show ‘unacceptable’ dip in pandemic

DES MOINES — Key Republicans in the Iowa legislature say last semester’s proficiency tests of students in several Iowa school districts yielded unacceptable results.

House Speaker Pat Grassley of New Hartford says the G-O-P’s top priority in the 2021 state legislature is ensuring schools offer 100 percent in-person classes for students.   “Some schools have taken every effort to provide in-person learning, but in some areas of the state parents and students who wanted to be back in school were met with, at best, a lack of responsiveness and, at worst, outright contempt,” Grassley said. “Students are being trapped in situations that aren’t what’s best for them.”

Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver of Ankeny says the state cannot afford to let a generation of kids fall behind academically.  “Kids learn better when they are in school, in classrooms, in person instead of in front of a screen,” Whitver said. “The longer they are out of school, the more their skills deteriorate and the further behind they fall.”

Whitver says test scores this fall show the negative impact of not having kids in classrooms regularly. “At midterm this fall, 37% of students in Iowa City schools were failing at least one class, a number double the previous year,” Whitver said. “A similar decline has occurred in other districts around the state and across the country By any rational standard, this performance is unacceptable.”

Both Whitver and Grassley have been saying since mid-December that “everything is on the table” when it comes to education policy. That includes giving Iowa parents state tax dollars to pay private school tuition.

Senate President Jack Chapman, a Republicna from Adel, describes it this way. “Tear down the barriers that prevent parents from choosing where to send their children for education,” Chapman said.

Democratic leaders who gave speeches Monday as the legislative session began did not mention these policies, but emphasized that public schools need more state money to deal with pandemic-related expenses. Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls of Coralville says the virus is tearing through our state and the scars of the pandemic will be long-lasting. He says speeding up delivery of COVID vaccines will ensure kids and educators can go back to school safely.

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