The Iowa Senate voted 37-13 to confirm the appointment of school choice champion Chad Aldis as head of the state’s Department of Education.
Last fall, the Republicans won a super majority of 34 votes in the state Senate, giving them the two-thirds majority needed to approve any gubernatorial appointment.
Still, three Democrats broke ranks to support the Republicans, who voted in a block for Aldis, said KCCI 8 News Des Moines.
Previously, Aldis worked as an education expert at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which promotes “educational excellence for every child in America.”
“He’s interested in increasing the student performance of all the schools in the state of Iowa,” state Sen. Brad Zaun said, according to the Des Moines Register. “He comes from a business background. I think that’s really important.”
Democrats, however, complained that Aldis wasn’t part of the education establishment.
“He has not been a teacher, he has not been an administrator. He has not worked in public schools in any position,” said Sen. Molly Donahue, according to the Register.
But Donahue’s underlying objection was that Aldis’ support for school choice would undermine the current failing public school system.
“His experience encompasses education policy, advocacy and research that spans multiple states in charter school laws and private school choice,” complained Donahue. “That is not the resume of a pro-public school advocate who is looking to help navigate the rough seas ahead for our public schools.”
But a statement by the state’s governor lauded Aldis as a fourth-generation Iowan who understood the complexities of sorely needed reform for Iowa’s education system.
“Chad is the type of leader we need at this pivotal time for Iowa’s education system,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said. “His unique perspective will help lead reform within the department and across our schools so that every Iowa student—regardless of what school they attend—receives a quality education that prepares them to be successful in life.”
Reynolds added that while Iowa students rank above the national average, it’s been 30 years since Iowans lead the nation in math scores.
Aldis said that he supports public education and wants students to leave “high school with the reading, math, and civics knowledge and skills to prepare them for either college or a career,” in the same way that he was able to do as an Iowa public school student.
Aldis was born and raised in eastern Iowa, graduated from Clinton High School in 1990, and was named to the Des Moines Register’s First Team Academic All State.