Campaign Description

Here's what this campaign is about:

Ensuring equal opportunities in curriculum and programming for all students

Providing our students and faculty with safe, healthy, technology-driven learning environments

Committing to our neighborhood schools

Guaranteeing responsible stewardship of public funds

Celebrating the diversity within our district

Engaging parents to become active participants in the schools

Making data-driven decisions with measurable results

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A State of Minds?

I realize I really need to change the name of this blog, but I have yet to do so.

At any rate, I delivered the following comments today during a House Education subcommittee meeting in Des Moines.  Hope you enjoy.

“A State of Minds”  

Many might remember this slogan from when it was proposed for our license plates by then first-term, Governor Branstad back in 1983.   Back then, the governor wanted to emphasize Iowa’s high literacy rate and education prowess in order to attract businesses from outside of the state to relocate to Iowa.  

That was then, this is now. My, how times have changed.

We are at a crossroads in our state. Iowa stands at the precipice of a future economy that relies on emerging new technologies.  The business growth in the Technology Corridor between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids is a perfect example of this.  We, as a state, have to decide now if we are preparing our future workforce with just the three R’s or with the technology and skills necessary to compete in today’s global economy.  In order to win in Business, we need to win in Education. A highly skilled workforce leads to higher earning potential and a higher standard of living, which is critical to attract new businesses to our state.  Education is the first step in creating a self-perpetuating cycle of prosperity…. It begins in our classrooms…..with our students.  

Our neighboring states, however, are beating us to the punch.  The gap in education spending between Iowa and surrounding states is widening and our kids are paying the price.  We live in a state that ranks 22nd in per capita income, but has plummeted to 35th in per pupil spending. We are currently spending $1612 less per pupil than the national average.  Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois all fund education ABOVE the national average.  Nebraska and Missouri are BELOW the average, but still ahead of Iowa. Can we really compete for future business if our students aren’t prepared? 

Surprisingly, our teachers have managed to produce amazing results, with too little, for far too long.  What’s the return on investment for education funding?  Lets examine what Iowa students are capable of.  Despite the steady loss of $641 in inflation-adjusted funding since 2008, our students have:

  • 2nd highest ACT composite in the nation
  • 89% graduation rate
  • Steady increases in AP testing and students taking concurrent collegiate classes
  • Statewide voluntary preschool has quadrupled to 21,429 students over the past five years. 
These gains have been made despite a substantial statewide growth of students living in poverty, as well as those for which English isn’t their first language.  This shows that we have the right teachers and the students willing to do the work to succeed.  What we don’t have is the classroom supports and technology to continue to maintain the Iowa standard. 

Setting Education funding as the premier priority for Iowa with an increase in Supplemental State Aid next year of 4% with 6% the following year would be the first steps to reversing Iowa’s quick slide toward the bottom.  It wouldn’t get us to the national average, but it would be a start.  We can’t afford to NOT emphasize education in this state.  What good is a decrease in corporate property tax if we don’t have a highly skilled workforce ready to compete with the rest of the world?

I’ll admit, I didn’t like the slogan “ A State of Minds” back in 1983, but I understand what the governor was trying to emphasize back then.  He was right to tout our strengths.  He was right to let those outside Iowa know about our commitment to education.

But he’s wrong now, and our students of today and workforce of tomorrow will pay the price.  I ask that you do the right thing for our students and for our future economy: Set Supplemental State Aid immediately for FY 2016 and FY 2017 at 4% and 6% respectively.  

Horace Mann said, “Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”  Lets make education the top priority for our state once again.