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Iowa was once a leader in education, but we’ve lost a lot of ground to other states with Statehouse Republicans underfunding public schools year after year.

Iowa’s position in education has been on the decline in recent years. According to U.S. News and World Reports annual rankings, our state has dropped to 24th in the country for preK-12 education overall.

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Even though our state has the best high school graduation rate, Iowa students now rank 40th in college readiness. This is what happens when our state doesn’t provide our local schools enough funding to even keep up with inflation—and it’s a trend that may continue, given this year’s meager school funding. In fact, 81 school districts won’t get a dollar more in state funding than they received last year.

It’s a concern I am hearing about a lot right now. Parents and educators are increasingly worried, particularly as the Governor continues to pressure lawmakers to pass her private school voucher initiative.

Senate Republicans approved SF 2369 last week. It would divert another $75 million in funding for our local public schools to a small number of private schools.

The Iowa House has yet to take up the bill because they are hearing from Iowans who don’t want their hard-earned tax dollars siphoned off, with no accountability.

In a recent article from southeast Iowa’s Pen City Current, local educators made it clear that the Governor’s private voucher plan is especially bad for rural Iowa.

Central Lee Superintendent Andy Crozier said private school vouchers create two systems with different sets of rules, even though they’re both funded with taxpayer dollars.

“Private schools have no public board meetings. They don’t have to post staff salaries, no achievement scores. They’re not held to the same accountability,” Crozier said. “It’s not the same playing field.”

Fort Madison Superintendent Erin Slater said the bill is yet another attack on public schools and teachers that would have an immediate negative impact.

“As I complete my 30th year in education, I have seen a significant shift in respect and trust in the profession of educating youth. That is disheartening,” Slater said. “Choosing to be in education is because of the opportunity to make a difference in our future…our kids. The shift has created shortages in teacher positions not only locally but nationwide.”

Read more from the Pen City Current: Local public school officials pan Senate private school bill

If you are also concerned about the consequences of diverting more funding from our local schools and students, please contact your state representative and tell them to oppose SF 2369. Find your state House member.

Instead of siphoning off critical funding, let’s invest in our public schools and in all students by:

·       Reducing class sizes and making preschool a real option for all parents.

·       Recruiting and keeping more great teachers in our classrooms by treating them with respect and paying them what they’re worth.

·       Expanding STEM and technical education options that prepare students for immediate job openings upon graduation.

Author: Janet Petersen

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for this insightful article. No matter what we look like or where we come from most of us want our kids to receive an education that opens doors so they can access the American Dream.

    Public schools are a public good that work to both protect and empower ALL students who are in attendance. Public schools were initially set up to do just that. They deserve public support.

    But today’s conservatives are intentionally attempting to spread lies about what is being taught in our schools. Why? So they can distract and divide everyday folks…while they find ways to “steal” resources from public schools…vouchers and so-called alternatives to public school do just that.

  2. Do you know some of the teachers these days. Most are considering quitting because there is no discipline in the school (not allowed) and the students who want to learn cannot for the terrible disruptions from out of control classmates. The private schools have better discipline and some learning is accomplished. If you want kids to attend public schools, do something about what goes on there and students will come back. Homeschooling is becoming more popular but some people have to work and cannot homeschool. The pay for teachers is good in Iowa but they are suffering from nervous breakdowns trying to teach.

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