CLASSROOM CHALLENGE: Looking For Agreement

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Hundreds of students have visited the Iowa Statehouse this week as many young Iowans enjoy a spring break away from class. Dozens watched an event inside the capitol rotunda from the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education, a group that promotes greater access to private school education. During the event, Governor Terry Branstad stressed the importance of education for students. He said, "We want families to have an opportunity to give their children the very best educated opportunities and that's important for the future of our state, as well."

But the best way to achieve the educational reform the governor wants remains elusive to lawmakers. The governor has already delayed plans to revamp the teachers' compensation system so leaders have more time to study it and find agreement. A bill passed in the house also eliminates the governor's plans to require a minimum 3.0 Grade Point Average for future teachers in college. It also caps the number of students in the state who would be permitted for full-time on-learning courses.

Senate Democrats discussed education plans Wednesday. Senator Herman Quirmbach, an Ames Democrat and Iowa State professor, said his party stands firmly against house Republicans' plans to transfer $20 million of the previously allotted $30 million to shrink classroom sizes, as well as plans to end social promotion of 3rd graders. Quirmbach says Republican plans to divert the $20 million is "like robbing Peter to pay Paul". And instead of implementing more testing for 3rd graders to determine their reading skills, he said Democrats would prefer to involve parents and teachers in working on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a student is academically ready to move onto 4th grade.

Quirmbach couldn't say yet when the senate will debate its own version of education reform. He said Democrats are still studying house Republicans' plans.