Applause for Iowa House File 2545

National Association of Scholars

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) and the Civics Alliance are delighted that Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has just signed into law House File 2545 (HF 2545). HF 2545 directs the Iowa State Board of Education to review and revise Iowa’s social studies standards, “with a focus on United States history, government, founding philosophies and principles, important historical figures, western civilization, and civics.” HF 2545 details at length what Iowa social studies standards should look like. In doing so, it sketches a necessary and wonderful strengthening of Iowa’s public K-12 social studies education.

NAS and the Civics Alliance are honored that some of our model legislation informed HF 2545, including the Social Studies Curriculum Act, the Civics Course Act, the Western Civilization Act, and the United States History Act. We also are glad that Iowa policymakers adapted our model legislation to suit Iowa. We drafted our model legislation expecting and wanting it to be changed by policymakers who know their own state and are responsible to their state’s voters. We are grateful to them for improving our work—and we are especially grateful to Representative Brooke Boden and Senator Brad Zaun, who shepherded this legislation, and to House Speaker Pat Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver.

HF 2545 now needs to be put into effect by the State Board of Education. We strongly recommend that the State Board not delegate this task to the regular administrators of the Department of Education. Iowa policymakers would not have needed to enact HF 2545 if the Department of Education had executed properly its existing powers to draft social studies standards. Entrusting the Department of Education with this revision is an invitation to bureaucratic noncompliance with the spirit of HF 2545.

We urge the State Board to follow the precedents established by Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia and appoint an independent committee to review Iowa’s social studies standards and submit to the Board a draft revision. We especially urge the Board to charge that independent committee to model new social studies standards for Iowa on American Birthright: The Civics Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards—but LouisianaSouth Dakota, and Virginia also provide good models for reformed social studies standards. Successor independent committees should oversee the establishment of curriculum frameworks, model lesson plans, teacher education and licensure requirements, state assessments, and textbook acquisition guidelines, to ensure that these all complement the reformed social studies standards.

We also urge Iowa policymakers, both legislators and the governor’s administration, to encourage the Board to appoint such an independent committee, and to support the Board and the Committee in the face of predictable opposition from radicals in Iowa’s education establishment, who are committed to the status quo that HF 2545 seeks to change. HF 2545 needs strong and steady support from Iowa’s policymakers, and its citizens, to overcome bureaucratic subterfuges and attrition warfare and go into effect as intended by Iowa policymakers. Iowa’s policymakers have done wonderfully by Iowa’s students, and especially its schoolchildren, by passing HF 2545. Policymakers’ continuing firm championship of social studies reform will allow the Board to complete the job that Iowa policymakers have begun.

Iowa’s policymakers have done wonderfully, to bring Iowa to the forefront of education reform. Steady follow-up work, by the Board and by policymakers, will allow them to reap a wonderful harvest.

Photo by pabrady63 on Adobe Stock

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