Reason #5 – Educators keep making it happen with reduced funding

In trying to understand the lack of commitment to public education in Iowa, my August blog used the “5 Whys” process to analyze the lack of commitment.

The five main reasons that were identified with this process include:

  • Depleted state revenues for Supplemental State Aid (SSA)
  • Legislators not following the SSA timeline
  • The need for binding arbitration for legislators
  • School reform “Initiative Fatigue”
  • Educators keep making it happen with reduced funding – doing more with less

Today, we will explore reason #5: Educators keep making it happen with reduced funding—doing more with less.

Why did the legislature and the Governor under-fund education during a year when revenue came in at five to six percent above the previous year, and reserve funds stand at almost 20 percent? Part of the reason why this under-funding of Iowa education continues is that, we, as educators, continue to make adjustments. We reduce programming, reduce services, and don’t explain the hardships that this continuous under-funding causes. When we do, we are accused of “whining.” Educators try to keep these hardships away from the students, the teachers and the families, just as a parent would keep financial hard times from their children, if they could. The problem is, you can only do it for so long.

Iowa’s education system will continue to decline if the legislative and gubernatorial lack of financial support continues. Twenty to 30 years ago, it was never an educator’s responsibility, or duty, to lobby legislators for what was considered a common good of educating students in the state of Iowa. Public relations and marketing skills targeted at influencing politicians to provide funding for education were not a priority for educators. When educators are given a responsibility to provide for the common good of educating students so that Iowa and the United States have an educated populous for a democracy, they cannot do it without the appropriate resources. To under-fund the resources and then blame educators for not achieving the goals seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Education is not like the business community, which competes in a free market. Education in America is designed to support ALL children and collaborate for ALL to succeed, rather than to compete for winners and losers. We need ALL children to be in the winners’ bracket. We are not here to trade our children as commodities. The children are not to be bought and sold for profit purposes. They are here for us to educate.

Public schools have been the foundation of democracy in the United States. Iowa does not need to lower itself to these national tactics of diminishing our public schools. We have to be careful not to ride this same national slippery slope of under-funding public education, raising the expectations, and then declaring that education is failing.

In fact, Iowa schools, and the nation’s schools, have never been better. Overall, test scores are up, college courses taken by high school students are at an all-time high, Advanced Placement (AP) classes taken by high school students are at an all-time high, students scoring a 4 or a 5 on AP tests (the highest score) are at an all-time high, and graduation rates are up. All of these accomplishments have happened while students deal with more poverty, fewer family jobs, lower family wages and increased social pressures.

I would like to end this series of blogs about education with a “congratulations” and an admiration of teachers and administrators in Iowa’s educational system. They are flat out phenomenal! I am proud of the way educators perform while receiving criticism and scrutiny. They focus on facilitating thinking for children. They encourage students to take risks and they listen to students’ questions. They engage students in projects and challenges and support the struggle of learning. They truly cultivate the dreams of Iowa’s students.

Our teachers deserve to be celebrated, rather than blamed, for all of society’s ills. So, I wish all educators in Iowa a happy 2016! There are many great opportunities ahead of us, and we need our teachers to fulfill the dreams of our students. 

Happy New Year!

P.S. Educators across our nation received extremely promising news on December 10, 2015, when President Obama signed the new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). This bill was an example of our Executive and Legislative branches focusing on what is right for children. The bill passed with a large majority and was a bipartisan effort. Next month, I will explore the contents of the bill and the things that were eliminated from No Child Left Behind. It was a great day for the students in America.

As always, be sure to check out our blogs, which we hope will inform, inspire and guide your daily work:

For a complete listing of all blogs, please go to the Northwest AEA website. You can also sign up for an RSS feed to automatically receive blog updates (instructions provided on the Northwest AEA website).

Educationally yours,

Dr. Tim Grieves
Chief Administrator