A promising initiative for Iowans

My career in the Iowa public education system began in the fall of 1980. Needless to say, I have witnessed a lot of politicians make bold statements of how they would improve Iowa education once they were elected. After 35+ years “in the trenches” from small to mid-size rural school districts to the community college to a state university and back to the community college, I have lived “the next big idea” through multiple cycles. Unfortunately, many of these big ideas were short-lived with very little lasting impact, and a duration about as long as the next election cycle.

The recent announcement of the Governor’s Future Ready Iowa Alliance, however, is different than the others and has given me good reason to be quite optimistic about Iowa education and meeting the state’s needs for a well-educated and skilled workforce for many years to come.

The obvious question is — what’s different? The answer starts with the word “Alliance.” For the first time I can remember, an initiative has been launched with all of the necessary key stakeholders playing major roles in accomplishing the Governor’s and Lt. Governor’s objectives to: 1. Get Iowans Ready; 2. Get Iowans Credentialed; and, 3. Get Iowans Hired.

For example, Dan Houston, president and CEO of Principal Financial Group, is co-chairing the statewide initiative with the Lt. Governor. His perspective and leadership skills from the corporate world will be vital to ensure the outcomes are based on data and include inputs from a wide spectrum of constituent groups. Other members include representation from business and industry, public and private education from all levels, economic and workforce development, city government, chamber and service organizations, legislators, and students.

Working groups have been designed to encompass a comprehensive range of issues addressing preK-12 education, postsecondary education, underrepresented and undereducated populations, alignment of programming to meet high-demand occupational needs, and communication to the broader public.

With a strategic inclusion of all the right players at the table, there exists a golden opportunity to make a difference in Iowa education and the economy for many years into the future. I applaud the Governor, Lt. Governor, and all of the participants who will volunteer their time and energy to tackle some of the most critical issues facing our state. Without doubt, this ambitious undertaking is different and I have renewed faith that the end result will be well worth everyone’s efforts.


Dr. Chris Duree is Chancellor of Iowa Valley Community College District.