May 12, 2014 — A middle school teacher likened Congress' actions to the adolescent games she expects from her students. The U.S. Representative she addressed, along with almost a dozen politically-minded people during Tuesday's roundtable discussion at Clinton High didn't disagree.
Washington Middle School teacher Julie Wolbers has over three decades of educating under her belt. She didn't take personal issue with Rep. Dave Loebsack, his Democrat colleagues nor his Republican counterparts legislating in Washington. Rather the system — namely No Child Left Behind — appears to be broken, and to Wolbers, policy-making on education has become a political game between non-educators.
"We've all been concerned that there were many non-educators making education decisions," Wolbers said while seated to Loebsack's immediate left. Clinton served as the starting point for the congressman's "Our Schools, Our Future" tour throughout his district. "My question is how are we going to be more involved in that?"
She added later: "We're taking the population that cannot necessarily talk for themselves and punishing them. We need you to make the right decisions because we try to make the right decisions every day."
NCLB reform is among Loebsack's top priorities since being named ranking democrat member of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee — a branch of the House Education and Workforce Committee. This sparked his latest "Our Schools, Our Future" tour which kicked off today.
While the position grants him more authority, Loebsack said he was doubtful major reform will come in 2014, an election year.
"There's not a lot that's going to get done this year obviously. The fact of the matter is it's an election year," he said. "Unfortunately it's difficult enough that we haven't done anything with No Child Left Behind in how many years.
"You look at Congress and the approval ratings are in the tank, and there's a lot of reasons for that.... Unfortunately (education) has become a hugely partisan issue like so many things in the U.S. House of Representatives."
Loebsack was joined by state Sen. Rita Hart and Rep. Mary Wolfe in the Clinton High innovation labs. He hoped to guage constituents on a number of educational issues he hopes to take with him back to the Hill. Topics also centered around mental health in education, improving school safety, supporting rural schools and implementing the type of practices the innovation labs offer CHS.
However, reshaping NCLB continued to surface.
"We have to do everything we can to modify and reform NCLB so that we don't punish schools, so we don't punish administrators or teachers," Loebsack said after his meeting. Rather, he hopes to provide "incentives and tools" to improve the system.
VIDEO: Rep. Loebsack explains why he thinks he is a good fit for education reform.