It’s been a tough year to feel positive about Iowa education politics

Storm cell

It’s been a tough year to feel positive about Iowa education politics. For example…

Our governor wants Iowa schools to return to the top of the NAEP rankings and reclaim their ‘world class’ status but is endorsing a 1.25% budgetary increase that doesn’t even keep up with inflation (while requesting a 9% increase for his own office). As a result, most schools will have to cut people just to keep the lights on and the buses running. We can expect teacher layoffs, crowded classrooms, and other disinvestments in the needs of students, despite a solid state economy and a healthy reserve. We may fall as low as 40th in per-pupil spending. So much for being a state that allegedly cares about education.

Our outdated school start date legislation clearly fails to meet the needs of schools (336 out of 338 school districts asked for a waiver last year) but suddenly is being tightly enforced. Our state department of education says that it believes in principles of ‘local control’ but then this year notified districts that it no longer would automatically grant school start date waivers and that essentially every reason they might give for an earlier start date will not be considered legitimate. The school start date consternation is apparently being driven by the tourism industry. Educational needs are being given short shrift.

Of course we’re seeing lots of posturing from both sides of the political aisle (e.g., polarizing comments, Twitter wars, and ‘public’ hearings in rooms that are too small for the public to attend). And we’re seeing some really goofy stuff occurring during what should be important discussions and debates.

We’ve got a superintendent who’s decided he must break the law just to meet the needs of his district’s students. He’s being condemned by some legislators, despite the fact that they themselves break the law year after year when it comes to meeting deadlines for setting school spending authority.

Last week we were notified that our state department of education has now chewed up and spit out its second talented director in less than two years. We’ve got a misbegotten student retention law that’s about to go into effect. Our state assessments don’t align with our state standards. Budgets for our regional educational agencies – which provide essential services to our districts – keep getting reduced. And we’re starting to see proposed legislative attacks on teacher unions that are inconsistent with our rhetoric that we honor and develop teachers. I don’t know if we’re one of ‘those states’ yet when it comes to education but it sure seems like we’re getting closer.

After last year’s legislative session I said to several folks that I was glad it was quiet and positive compared to years past. Apparently last year was just the calm before the storm… [sigh]

Image credit: Storm cell, Tom Gill

4 Responses to “It’s been a tough year to feel positive about Iowa education politics”

  1. The real situation is that the Iowa State Legislature should be ashamed of the failure to act in time for school budget cycles.

    Interim passing of a minimal increase as proposed should be done with a rider that simply forces the issue to be continued for added increases above that number.

    Net results, at the very least the schools get a base number with an increase now, better late, than this never. Two, the bill should include that rider that forces them for a bigger increase as promised before, but apparently part of this stand off at the corral forcing schools into a perilous arena of spending.

    Read that as the school going forward to spend some reserve to get what they want in alleged violation of state law, but that is via unequal protection not being applied to state legislative officials derelict of legally obliged duty.

    Two wrongs because no one is right? Unequal protection?

    Davenport Schools Superintendent Dr. Art Tate faced some fallout from the decision.

    Tate faced a possible misdemeanor charge, and the possibility of losing his job, after he told board meeting attendees he would dip into the district’s $29-million reserve fund to avoid increasing class sizes and cutting personnel. ↔ The Iowa Legislature begins the ninth week of the 2015 session the hot topic for now is education funding FAIL!

    “We can respect that there are many points of view on the issue of funding for Iowa’s schools, but we can’t support or condone a school district’s decision to violate the law. If there is follow-through, there will be consequences,” said a March 10 statement from Iowa Department of Education Communications Director Staci Hupp Ballard

    Ahem, Staci, why are you not lambasting the Iowa State Legislature for their immense failure instead of this one school district? Because you are chicken about your own reappointment?

    Scott, I hope you can utilize some of your positive energy to get these people off dead center!

    D. R. Arthur

  2. I would comment about the situation in Arizona, but I’m not sure legally what I can and can’t say. I don’t think it matters if my opinions are negative or positive either.

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