Education & Schools
Braley Supports Compromise Bill Extending Low Student Loan Interest Rates for One Year PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Monday, 02 July 2012 10:00

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today released the following statement after voting in favor of a bipartisan compromise that will extend low student loan interest rates for one year.  The House voted to pass the compromise bill minutes ago by a vote of 373-52.

“Iowa college students can breathe a sigh of relief now that the student loan interest hike will be blocked for a year.  Iowa college graduates have the 3rd highest student debt load in the nation.  Thankfully, this bipartisan compromise ensures that more debt won’t be piled even higher on them.

 

“Keeping college within reach of more students means that new economic opportunities will open to more young Iowans.”

 

In January 2012, Braley co-wrote and introduced the first legislative proposal to block the student loan interest hike.  The Keeping College Affordable Act would have indefinitely extended the low, 3.4 percent interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford student loans.  For more information, visit: http://go.usa.gov/waf.

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Grassley says the denial of Iowa’s request for an education waiver is baseless PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 02 July 2012 09:58
June 29, 2012

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley is challenging the U.S. Secretary of Education over his agency’s overreach in denying Iowa’s request for a waiver from some requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act, saying the Obama administration’s rationale lacks “democratic legitimacy.”

Grassley said the federal law contains no requirement for states to develop a “teacher and leader evaluation and support system,” which was the reason given by the U.S. Department of Education in denying Iowa’s request.  Grassley said the state-level issue of whether the Iowa Department of Education has the authority to implement such a system is irrelevant in this waiver request because the federal government doesn’t have the power to require it.

“If we have learned any lesson from the No Child Left Behind Act, it is that, in our vast and diverse nation, one size does not fit all,” Grassley said in the letter he sent today to Secretary Arne Duncan.  “Therefore, I ask that you invite states to submit waiver requests that are entirely locally designed and that you establish an objective process to review such waiver requests that evaluates them on their merits, free from any specific federal policy agenda that has not been enacted by Congress.”

Grassley said the matter of what specific education reforms are right for Iowa is between the Governor, the Iowa Legislature, and the people, not the federal education agency.

The text of Grassley’s letter to Duncan is below.  Click here to see a signed copy of the letter.

 

June 29, 2012

 

The Honorable Arne Duncan

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20202

 

Dear Secretary Duncan,

The recent letter to the Director of the Iowa Department of Education signed by your Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education denying the State of Iowa’s request for a waiver from certain federal requirements raises some serious concerns.  This letter makes clear that the denial is based on the fact that the Iowa Department of Education does not have the authority to implement a “teacher and leader evaluation and support system” that contains six specific components.  Section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides that states or school districts can apply to waive certain requirements of that law and sets out the required components for such a waiver request.  Nowhere in this section, or anywhere else in federal law, is there a requirement for states to develop a “teacher and leader evaluation and support system” and nowhere in the law is the Secretary of Education granted the authority to require the implementation of new policies that are not in existing law.

As you know, the Iowa Department of Education lacks the authority to implement such a system because the Iowa Legislature considered the matter and declined to grant that authority.  As a federal elected official, it is not my place to say whether or not that was the right decision.  I admire Governor Branstad’s commitment to education reform, but the details of what specific reforms are right for Iowa is a matter between the Governor of Iowa, the Iowa Legislature, and the people of Iowa.  It is certainly not the place of the U.S. Secretary of Education to condition relief of certain federal requirements on the adoption of a whole new federal policy agenda that has never passed Congress and therefore lacks democratic legitimacy.

It is important to recognize that real innovation and reform cannot be imposed from the top down, but must come from the ground up.  What works in one state or community may not work in another.  If we have learned any lesson from the No Child Left Behind Act, it is that, in our vast and diverse nation, one size does not fit all.  Therefore, I ask that you invite states to submit waiver requests that are entirely locally designed and that you establish an objective process to review such waiver requests that evaluates them on their merits, free from any specific federal policy agenda that has not been enacted by Congress.

 

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator

 
UW-LA CROSSE SPRING DEAN'S LIST PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Jody   
Friday, 29 June 2012 10:33

La Crosse, Wis. - Rachel Budelier of Davenport has been named to the Dean's List at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse for the spring semester of the 2011-12 academic year, ending May 2012.


Qualification for the Dean's List is limited to students who have attained outstanding academic achievement. To be eligible, students must have earned not less than a 3.5 semester grade point average and have carried a minimum of 12 semester credits.


UW-La Crosse, founded in 1909, is one of the 13 four-year institutions in the University of Wisconsin System. UW-L has nearly 10,000 full and part-time students enrolled in 43 undergraduate majors, 17 master's degree offerings and three certificate programs.


UW-La Crosse - www.uwlax.edu - ranks No. 2 in the Midwest's top regional public universities listing by U.S.News & World Report's 2012 College Guide. The university is No. 62 on a list of the nation's best 100 colleges by Kiplinger's magazine (2012) and is on the list of "Military Friendly Schools" by G.I.Jobs.

 
Simon: State should make school district mergers easier, more affordable PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Justin Stofferahn   
Friday, 29 June 2012 10:31

Classrooms First recommendations promote consolidation and shared services

to redirect millions from back-office operations to students

SPRINGFIELD – June 29, 2012. The Classrooms First Commission has submitted a final report to Governor Quinn and the General Assembly with 23 recommendations to spur school district consolidation and streamline school district operations, with the goal of redirecting $1 billion to classrooms from administration spending, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon announced today.

Simon says she will work with state lawmakers in the coming months to introduce several legislative recommendations outlined in the report, “A Guide to P-20 Efficiency and Opportunity,” that will reduce barriers to consolidation, boost use of shared services agreements and increase learning opportunities across the state.

Among the top priorities listed by the bipartisan advisory panel led by Lt. Governor Simon is the need to replace the state’s consolidation incentive system. The commission recommends sun-setting current consolidation incentives in 2017 and replacing them with a system that is both affordable to the state and responsive to needs of merging districts.

The Classrooms First Commission was created last August by the Governor and General Assembly to reduce duplicative education spending and improve educational outcomes due to the state’s budget constraints. The commission studied a Fiscal Year 2012 proposal to cut the state’s more than 860 school districts in half, and found it would cost well over $3 billion under the state’s current consolidation incentive structure. To rein in those costs, the report calls for incentives to sunset in five years and a commission to develop a new system based on a predictable, affordable formula or factors such as the square footage of a new district.

“We want Illinois to lead the nation in education performance, not bureaucracy,” Simon said, “but taking a cookie cutter approach to efficiency ignores fiscal and educational realities. This report recommends several well-reasoned steps to spend smarter and expand opportunity. We lived up to our name to put Classrooms First.”

Simon says while new incentives are being developed, lawmakers should implement several Classrooms First recommendations that promote consolidation in regions where it will produce cost savings and increase educational opportunity.

The first step is for Governor Quinn to sign Senate Bill 3252. The bill allows new “unit” or P-12 districts to gradually reduce their tax rate over four years following a consolidation. The maximum tax rate for a unit district is below the combined rate for separate elementary districts that feed into a high school district, so the legislation would give a district time to adjust to the lower tax rate, while still providing residents with property tax relief.

The second step is to make several legislative changes next Session that would reduce barriers to consolidation and cut red tape, Simon said. They would allow districts to merge with nearby neighbors when contiguous districts reject consolidation; expand the authority of regional board of school trustees to dissolve districts; and authorize districts to delay the effective date of a consolidation while waiting for construction funding.

“These recommendations eliminate bureaucratic burdens that keep districts from consolidating even when it makes sense,” said Simon. “Removing these roadblocks will allow districts to focus on the merits and potential benefits of consolidation.”

Within two years, the commission wants to see legislation authorizing the state to conduct feasibility and efficiency studies for districts in counties with small and declining school-age populations, which could lead them to consolidate. At that time, the state should also pilot a consolidation construction program that prioritizes funding for merging districts.

Beyond voluntary consolidation, the commission also recommended several legislative changes that would make it easier for districts to share staff and services beginning next Session and moving forward. One proposal would create a revolving fund to provide short-term, low-interest loans to seed cooperative service agreements or conduct efficiency studies; the loans would be repaid with the money gained through resulting streamlining. Another would permit districts to outsource non-instructional services if they were provided on a multi-district basis.

A third shared services proposal would authorize the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to provide a web-based resource management program to districts so they can identify potential savings in five major spending areas: instruction, transportation, food services, administration and facility maintenance. A pilot program of a similar service in Ohio resulted in at least a 5 percent operational savings at participating districts. At that rate, Illinois districts could realize a net savings of almost $1 billion.

The Classrooms First report is the culmination of an 11-month, three-stage process that gave commission members the opportunity to review relevant research and Illinois data, create working groups to draft recommendations and collect public input from hundreds of administrators, teachers, parents and taxpayers from across Illinois. The commission held two sets of public hearings that were attended by nearly 500 people and included testimony from 85 individuals. Additional feedback was collected from 470 submissions to an online survey in the fall.

“When this commission was formed it was a political football, and it has been wrested away from that,” said Brent Clark, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators and a commission member. “We put this in a place where it could be talked about and not kicked around politically.”

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” said Paul Swanstrom, who represented the High School District Organization of Illinois on the Classrooms First Commission. “The Lt. Governor asked us to be open-minded and in so doing I think we have all learned things. One of the key elements of the success of this commission is we heard from people across the state about what they are doing, and the members of the commission were able to use this information in their deliberations.”

Simon says she will begin meeting with stakeholders to move legislative recommendations in the coming year. To read the commission’s final report visit www.ltgov.illinois.gov.

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Upper Iowa University announces Spring 2012 Dean's List PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Monica Bayer Heaton   
Thursday, 28 June 2012 14:27

FAYETTE, IA (06/28/2012)(readMedia)-- Area students were recently named to the Upper Iowa University Dean's List for the spring 2012 semester. To be honored, a student must have earned a minimum 3.50 grade point average for the semester and be enrolled as a full-time student. These students include:

About Upper Iowa University

Founded in 1857, Upper Iowa University is a private, not-for-profit university providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs and leadership development opportunities to nearly 6,800 students-nationally and internationally-at its Fayette campus and learning centers worldwide. Upper Iowa University is a recognized innovator in offering accredited, quality programs through flexible, multiple delivery systems, including online and independent study. For more information, visit www.uiu.edu.

 
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