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      Town hall with Governor Branstad focuses on education reform

      Governor Terry Branstad addresses Bloomfield residents.

      Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds met with community members and city leaders for a town hall-style meeting in Bloomfield Thursday. The main topic of concern -- education and how to get Iowa's students back into the top percentile in the nation.

      Governor Branstad said Iowa's education system is, for the most part, stuck in the 20th Century and needs vast improvement to get students and teachers into 21st Century systems. Iowa students used to lead the nation in test scores, but now sit in the middle of the pack. The governor said that's not due to scores getting worse, but scores stagnating, and other states taking the lead.

      The governor's education reform plan was passed in the Iowa House in February, but it's now time for the Senate to take action.

      "Many of the schools have had to certify their budgets with the uncertainty, I think that's not really fair, so it's time to get this done," said Governor Branstad. "The bill's been in conference now for several weeks and I believe that we have a reasonable plan that balances student achievement and accountability with providing additional funding."

      The governor's plan focuses on teacher compensation and leadership; keeping the state's best teachers in the classroom in front of students and the Teach Iowa Initiative, which attracts the state's best and most successful students to become teachers.

      The investment proposed by Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds would scale up in cost investments and be fully implemented in five years' time.

      Other topics of conversation at Bloomfield's town hall were job creation and property tax relief and making Iowa the healthiest state in the country. Iowa has already leapt from 19th in the nation for health to ninth, but Governor Branstad said it will be harder to make another jump from the ninth spot to the top. To do so, he says the state needs to invest $2 million Rural Physician Loan Repayment Program to attract and keep physicians and OBGYNs in rural communities, as well as dedicate support to Iowa's medical residency programs.