House Republicans continued refusal to bring either education funding bill out of committee means the legislature has now been in violation of state law for more than 40 days. The law that was passed to prevent party politics from holding our children’s education hostage to the process, as it is now. The Senate has passed a 6% increase in this funding for the 2015/2016 school year. An increase that would still leave us below the national average for school funding. The House proposal at this time is 0%, with the majority party stating their preference and intention to not set the growth amount at all until next year. Instead of 14 months to plan a budget, administrators and school boards would have 6-12 weeks.
Republicans have repeatedly stated that they do not want to set the Supplemental State Aid rate a year in advance because they don’t know what future revenues will be. Yet that is exactly what they are asking schools to do, with much more disastrous consequences. As we speak, districts are in the process of setting budgets that must be submitted by April 15th, a deadline they do not have the luxury of ignoring. We’ve talked before about the consequences of not knowing funding levels and having to set budgets at the last minute. (Not able to hire the teachers, para educators, and staff they need. Holding off on purchasing new curriculum or implementing new programs, even those mandated by state ed reform. Increased class sizes, fewer resources for students in need, and difficulty or even inability to fully meet the needs of every student.) Now that we are getting closer to the April 15th deadline we are seeing that some districts are facing even more dire consequences. Not just holding off on new programs and implementation of reform initiatives, but having to find ways to make large cuts in their budgets. The Mason City School Board is looking for ways to cut $2 million, Iowa City will be cutting 35 teaching positions, 1 administrative position and an overall budget cut of nearly $3.6 million. West Des Moines will need to cut $2.7 million from their budget and has proposed closing 1 of their elementary schools to help meet that need. The Davenport School Board is looking for nearly $3.2 million to cut, Clinton Schools $900 thousand, Marion Schools $900 thousand, Red Oak Schools $800 thousand this year with a total of $1 million in cuts over the next 2 years. The Johnston School District needs to cut $1.1 million. A superintendent in Northern Iowa has gone so far as to retire so that his district could save money by sharing the superintendent position with a neighboring school. Type the words "Iowa school board budget cuts" into any search engine and you'll soon see that these are just a few districts facing such difficult decisions.
More than half a million kids rely on the state of Iowa for their education and their needs are not being made a priority. This is exactly the situation the education funding law was intended to prevent.
A strong education system is vital for a strong state. It is time to do more than pay lip service to education in Iowa. We need all our legislators to be advocates for our children and their schools, advocates that will follow through in Des Moines with the promises they make in campaigns and public forums. Our students deserve no less, our state deserves no less.
So with the deadline to set school funding more than 40 days past, we have to ask our Governor and House Republicans: Will you stop playing political games with our children’s future, and obey the law? Do what's right for the students of Iowa, set Supplemental State Aid now.
Join us in holding our elected representatives accountable. Sign our petition and help us by contacting key legislators.
By UNIfy for Education
by UNIfy for Education
Iowa Code 257.8 requires the legislature to set the supplemental state aid rate, the amount of state money given to schools, (and formerly known as allowable growth) within 30 days of the release of the Governor's budget. That means the bill confirming the amount set for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014 and setting the amount for the fiscal year beginning July 1st, 2015 should have been approved, again, according to Iowa law, by February 13th this year.
School districts are required to submit their budgets by April 15th and do not have the luxury of allowing that deadline to pass. Failure of the legislature to set the supplemental state aid rate in a reasonable amount of time means school administrators and school boards are attempting to plan for the future with no clear idea what funds they will receive. Unknowns in their budget put school districts in a very difficult position. Decisions on staffing levels, negotiations on contracts, even decisions on curriculum and class offerings are just some of what is affected when administrators don't know what their overall funding will be.
The Senate has passed a 6% increase for fiscal year 2016 . (SF 2077/2079) The House has not brought either bill out of committee. On Wednesday, March 12, (almost a full month after the legally mandated deadline) Rep. Sharon Steckman, (D) Mason City, asked to bring SF2079 out of committee and onto the floor for debate, but the motion was defeated, 53-46.
(To see how each Representative voted on the motion, click here for Wednesday's House Journal.)
Unfortunately, this is not the first year the legislature has failed to meet the deadline for school funding. At UNIfy for Education, we believe it should be the last. Doing what is best for the students of Iowa means providing adequate funding, resources, and support, and doing so in a timely manner.
Please join us in holding our elected officials accountable.
Contact Governor Branstad, Lt. Governor Reynolds, members of the House education committee, and your local Representative. (You can find contact information on our website, here.)
Tell them education in Iowa must be a true priority.
Ask them to set supplemental state aid now.
Many legislators also participate in local forums throughout the session which can be a great way to find out their stance on important issues as well as an opportunity to ask questions and express your views. If you are in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area, please consider joining us at the Black Hawk-Bremer League of Women Voters Forum this Saturday morning from 10 - noon at AEA 267, 3712 Cedar Heights Drive. All Black Hawk County legislators have been invited to participate and the topic for this forum is state budget.
Guest Post by: Dawn Ask Martin
It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes mutual respect and two-way communication of ideas to make a village prosper. Families, schools and business sectors all have a symbiotic relationship when it comes to preparing our children for the future, and it is vital that they share ideas, and work together as equals to achieve this most vital goal. At local, state and national levels, our school policies are in need of improvements. To bring about meaningful change in education, business leaders need to engage parents and educators, as much as politicians and administrators.
A good faith effort in doing so starts with recognizing the harm in the data-driven mentality and micromanagement of teachers. Educators are trained professionals whose role in society has been reduced to glorified babysitters, due in great part to the ed-tech industry's influence on education policy. Trained teachers make a living finding effective ways to inspire students, and helping them understand concepts. They know better than anyone how best to do that, and they should be trusted to do their jobs based on what their experiences have shown to be best practices. Right now, they are on tight leashes, being forced to adhere to scripted lessons and restrictive timelines, yet are the first to be punished when students underachieve.
By Mariah Andrews
The recent cuts at UNI to academic programs, the university museum and Iowa’s Research & Development School will have a far-reaching economic ripple affect in the Cedar Valley. What kind of economic impact will losing faculty members and students have? What impact will losing families in the College Hill Overlay district have? What impact will this have on the reputation of UNI and our community as a whole?
Here are the top 10 economic reasons to UNIfy for Education.
We can still save the Cedar Valley economy.
By Mariah Andrews
Governor Terry Branstad himself has said, "I take some of the blame for Iowa’s slide in the rankings – for not realizing sooner that sticking with the status quo would eventually put Iowa at a disadvantage."
Unfortunately, as Education Iowa’s 2011 Annual Condition of Education Report indicates, our performance has continued to slip or stay stagnate in multiple areas.
Here are the eight performance benchmark reasons to UNIfy for Education:
By Katelin Tiernan
I’m pretty lucky.
Thanks to my high school I was able to accrue a significant amount of college credit for free through my school (BCLUW in Conrad). Despite hating going to a small school, they really helped me out there and in other aspects of my education. The reason this was so helpful is that I am now graduating this May after three short years of college, eliminating a pretty hefty chunk of student debt I would otherwise have.
I didn’t want to graduate in three years. No way. Giving up that whole year of winter break and spring break, homecoming, and let’s not forget afternoon naps, was not something I was ready to let go of. But when facing an extra $14,000 or so in debt if I stayed for another year, letting go of that last year started to look much better.
So when this petition came across my email, I was pretty excited to see what it was all about and quickly signed up. The petition was made to support H.R. 4170, The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 introduced by Michigan Representative Hansen Clarke. It is “legislation designed to lend a helping hand to those struggling under massive amounts of student loan debt.”
Student loan debt is a financial crisis and the creator of the petition, Robert Applebaum, explains the reason why:
“As a result of more than 30 years of treating higher education as an individual commodity, rather than a public good and an investment in our collective future, those buried under the weight of their student loan debt are not buying homes or cars, not starting businesses or families, and they're not investing, inventing, innovating or otherwise engaged in any of the economically stimulative activities that we need all Americans to be engaged in if we're ever to dig ourselves out of the giant hole created by the greed of those at the very top.”
I don’t know that it could be said any better. When I went through the process of getting financial aid for my education, I was so confused I almost felt like they were purposely trying to keep me partly in the dark. I’m sure they weren’t, or rather I hope not, but it’s such a frustrating process. And I again was lucky in this process, having a father who worked at bank to help me through the process.
The bill specifically addresses federal loans and does not include private loans. This act would relieve the minds of so many people struggling to pay their debt. I know people trying their hardest, and paying as much as they can monthly to diminish their debt, but federal collectors still think it’s not enough. Despite paying as much as or more than they really can per month, they are still asked for more.
This new bill would help that problem. The goal of the act is to make loan repayment “both simple and fair.” The bill would:
The petition explains that total American student loan debt is anticipated to exceed one trillon dollars this year. That is a lot of zeros. And because of budget cuts tuition just keeps increasing. I have often asked myself “what exactly is my tuition paying for?” because the price for education – something that not everyone does, something that I didn’t do because my family wanted me to or because my family could pay for it, but because I WANTED to learn and to advance my knowledge and skills – seems ridiculous.
If you share my feelings, then sign this petition. The goal is 250,000 and we are still a few thousand short. If you want some more information before you sign, there is a white sheet with some main provisions. There is also a list of frequently asked questions to look through. Otherwise, follow this link to sign the petition and show your support for decreasing student loan debt and improving our economy.
Don’t forget to sign the UNIfy for Education pledge as well. Let’s make education a priority once again, not just in Iowa but in the country as a whole.
By Katelin Tiernan
I’m graduating in May from UNI and have been surrounded by the uproar over the many academic cuts being made at the university. But to me, the concern isn’t over this single university in the state, or over these individual programs being eliminated, but my biggest concern is for the state of education in Iowa. I just have to wonder what’s happened, what has broken, that our government is so neglecting one of the most important and foundational things of our state?
It’s not just education, certainly, but other important things like health programs. These programs are all being swept to the side as “unimportant.” But they are not. Education, especially, cannot be looked at second, as something that doesn’t need much support.
I love Iowa, I really do. I don’t know if that is a common feeling among my peers, especially lately. A lot of people my age want to get out of this state as soon as they can. But not me. Until recently I had no doubts I would stay here pretty much my whole life; that I would have a career, getting married, and have a family all in Iowa. Now though, I’m not sure. It pains me to see a state I love throwing away the things we once held so dear.
I’m not alone, I’m sure. A fair deal of students at UNI alone want to transfer, and for many that means leaving the state entirely. Looking toward my own future I don’t think I could stay forever in a state that doesn’t value what I do, with a government in place that doesn’t value what it’s citizens do.
It all starts with education. Something we used to be able to look to in Iowa with absolute pride. We must get back to that point. That’s not going to happen by lowering budgets. That’s not going to happen by completely reforming education programs in a way that a majority of teachers don’t approve of. That’s not going to happen by Iowa citizens remaining silent.
My fellow students on campus have certainly taken notice of the changes occurring around them. Many have been vocal about their objections, but far too many focused only on the issue of closing Price Lab and the education program changes. That’s certainly a worthwhile issue, but it’s just one crack in a broken window. We have to come together, unify now, to get our state, and our education back, before the window shatters completely.
I urge you to be informed and contact your legislators about this issue. The more noise we make about it, the better.
Multiple authors contribute to the UNIfy for Education blog. If you'd like to be a guest blogger, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org