Where did all the money go?

We now have a major spending problem in the state of Iowa. Is it dumbfounding to me that we have been experiencing a positive growth in revenues ranging from 3.5 to 6.2 percent in the last four years; but, we are not able to fund the basic public needs of our state. A Quad-City Times article was recently published that goes into more detail about this fact.

This is a prioritization problem that is hurting education in our state. For me, prioritizing public schools, community colleges and universities should be the top priority. The state used to make it a top priority. In recent years, however, the priority has shifted to tax credits, tax breaks, Medicaid and targeted new spending for constituency groups.

As one state official shared with me, “This is the new normal.”  I would challenge the new normal in that it is a CHOICE how we prioritize our resources. I never thought that in my education career, Iowa would be in the same position as the rest of the nation in regards to not supporting their public schools. Public schools have been a mainstay for Iowa and something we have been extremely proud to have. The lack of continued support for education is palpable, and is affecting the delivery of services to Iowa students. I truly believe that public schools have been the backbone of our democracy—the great equalizer. An educated public is needed for a strong democracy.

We cannot give up; and, we must not sit around and complain, acquiesce or refuse to respond. To some, this doesn’t seem fair, but we must choose how we respond. I believe public school parents need to take a lesson from their private school peers. The private school parents have inundated legislators with messages of school choice. School choice is actually available in Iowa through open enrollment.

Time to Defend the Backbone of Democracy – Iowa’s Public Schools

It is now time for public education parents and educators to step forward and demand the resources needed to provide a quality education for the over 90 percent of students in Iowa served. We also need to demand fair and equitable rules and regulations for public schools. Each year, there are new requirements and regulations the public schools must navigate; i.e., new Career and Technical Education (CTE) regulations (2016-17) and a computer science requirement (2017-18). Public schools accept each and every student no matter their learning status, behavior status or special needs status. Public schools are also held accountable for every dollar given to them, as they have a public audit each year.

How do we respond to this lack of public funding for the public good? It is time to write your legislators and share with them the need to protect the backbone of our democracy. We must ask legislators to review the tax credits and tax breaks, since they are shrinking the available resources (pie) available for public use. Tools to help us do this come from efforts like the Iowa Association of School Boards' (IASB) “Stand Up for Public Schools in Iowa” initiative. These initiatives also debunk the mentality that our public schools are failing. It’s time to respond and let your state leaders know that we are only as strong as the education provided for every student in Iowa.

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Educationally yours,

Dr. Tim Grieves
Chief Administrator