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A History Of Iowa's Public Education System

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Iowans have long taken pride in our public school system. For years, teachers and administrators have talked about how Iowa has been home to some of the best schools in the nation. Maybe it was a little bit of Iowa exceptionalism, but the pride is unmistakable. Iowa has inched its way down the rankings of US News and World Report over the years. Iowa is now ranked 13th for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools.

This year has been a hard year for Iowa schools and it’s not over yet. The COVID-19 pandemic has created incredible challenges and now legislation proposed by Governor Reynolds would make significant changes to how we operate and fund our public schools.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, a look back at the rich history of Iowa's public school system.


  • Leo Landis, state curator, State Historical Society of Iowa
  • Margaret Buckton, partner, Iowa School Finance Information Services


Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Rick Brewer was a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River