Education continues to be a big topic at the Capitol. Thursday evening, the House voted to approve $3.5 billion in funding for schools, about a 3% increase over last year (though $19.2M is one-time funding). We now await our discussions with the Senate as they work on their 2.25% proposal.
But education discussions go beyond funding. Staff shortages and transparency issues have also dominated headlines and our discussions. I thought it might be helpful for me to share a few thoughts that guide my listening, discussion, and votes.
- Teachers are professionals that deserve our respect, listening, and support. “Broad brush” attempts to label can be hurtful, unhelpful, and detrimental to education in Iowa.
- Even with elected community representatives on School Boards, many parents feel unheard, dismissed, and minimized in school discussions. We all need to work to change this dynamic.
- Generally, school issues are best resolved, and in many cases are resolved, on the local level.
- Before enacting new laws about transparency, we need to ensure that existing school policies don’t already create those pathways. For example, I am aware of one of our High Schools that shares class syllabuses with parents, asking them to sign-off on any potentially controversial material. Enacting unnecessary state policies diverts precious resources away from the classroom.
- It is impossible to not teach values in our schools. But it is our shared values of diversity and respecting each other’s voices that needs to be paramount. Our schools should be the place to learn ABOUT differing perspectives with engagement in healthy discussion. The classroom is not the place for religious, political, or culture agendas. Students can engage such agendas through student-led organizations.
- I recognize there will be times when another’s exercise of the 1st Amendment will cause unease with my personal morality. When it comes to schools and libraries, adherence to my personal morality does not need to be fully satisfied if there is a recognition of age-suitability and parental permission.
- While we need to be careful about rogue individuals or districts driving our policy, there need to be consequences for those who flaunt state law. I have discovered that most teachers’ and leaders’ balanced perspectives get drowned out by a loud few.
I look forward to discussions around these important issues. I do have a Zoom Listening Session on School Choice scheduled for Wednesday, February 16th at 7:00 PM. If you are from Jasper County, I hope you can join the discussion or any of my other public forums. Please visit www.jondunwell/events for further information.