Dear Governor Branstad

Dear Governor Branstad,

I hope you are feeling well, I hear that you have been a little under the weather lately.  I am writing to see if you can pass on a message to your fellow Republicans at the statehouse.  I have tried to contact Speaker Paulsen and I’m not sure he’s getting my messages.  I know you are busy man, so I will do my best to keep this fairly short.

I have been a teacher in Iowa since 1990.  I have taught in private and public schools.  I have taught in small and large school districts.  The relationship between legislators and educators in Iowa has changed a lot during that time.  I am not exactly sure why.  Tell me if I’m wrong, but if feels like education in Iowa has become more politicized in the last 25 years.  When you became governor in 1983 Iowa was considered a national leader in education.  It doesn’t feel like that is true any more does it?  Is it possible that there is a relationship between the politicization of education in Iowa and our national standing in this area?

So, you proposed a 1.25% increase in education spending this year while state revenue has increased 6% and you have asked for a 9% increase for your office.  I assume that you asked for a 9% increase for your office because you believe that increased resources will lead to increased results.  I have also heard you say many times that you want our schools to be world class.  So do I.  But, here’s where I get lost.  How is it that schools operate under a different set of rules than your office (or any other organization)?  Wouldn’t it hold true that our schools might be helped by an increase in resources that at least keeps up with inflation?

I get the impression that members of your party believe that teachers are to blame for “bloated” school budgets.  I guess everyone is entitled to an opinion, but I’m confused why there aren’t more people breaking down the doors of our schools to earn the luxurious salaries that myself and my colleagues are collecting.  Are there parents and students in your office telling you that they want fewer activities, athletics, and arts programs in their schools, because these are the things that are the first to go when school funding doesn’t keep up with inflation.  Are our schools filled with superfluous staff and programs?  Can you show any evidence of that?  Is every school district in Iowa lying to you when they say that our schools will lose ground if you pass a 1.25% increase in funding?

I swear to you Governor Branstad that I want to understand.  Those of us who have dedicated our lives to education want to have a conversation with legislators from your party.  If you have a plan that spells out how you are going to encourage the next generation of teachers to enter this profession with an expectation to improve results with fewer resources I am eager to hear it.  To be frank, it just feels like your party doesn’t care for my profession.  I apologize for anything we did to cause that.  We are here to start a dialogue about how we make our schools better for kids.  If there is a way to do it with fewer resources we are all ears.  But, if the answer is that you need 9% to improve your office, but we have to do it with 1.25% then it’s all going to a confusing conversation on our end.  Iowa Republicans have to offer a better answer than to tell us to be world class, but do it with per pupil spending that doesn’t match the national average in a time when our state is financially stable.

It feels as though wealthy businesses and our state’s tourism industry find a way to make their case in your office.  It feels like those of us who spend our days working with Iowa’s young people have a harder time catching your attention.  The fact that your primary education advisor never spent a moment working in a school might be part of the problem.  I’m asking you to carve out some time with educators who are in the trenches to find out what is really happening in our schools.

Let me be clear.  I love my job.  I get paid fairly.  I also work a lot of hours and dedicate a lot of energy to help my students become more creative, more inquisitive, and more successful.  With that being said, my job (and the jobs of my colleagues) haven’t become easier in recent years.  The truth is that, while I would think it was a bad idea, I would rather you just told us that you are OK with Iowa being a haven for educational mediocrity based on your funding proposal.  If it makes you feel better, I’ll accept more mediocrity from your office if you don’t take a budget increase for your office the coming year.

My final question for you is this, do you feel like you are doing all you can for the young people of Iowa?  I can tell you that I’m doing all I can for my students.  Democratic legislators have made considerable efforts to compromise.  It is time for you to lead Mr. Governor.  Once this legislative session is over I would then ask you to be true to your word when you say you want our schools to be world class and begin a real dialogue with those of us who work in Iowa’s schools to discuss how we can return Iowa to it’s rightful place as a leader in education like it was when you took office and when I started my career.  That will start when we realize that education shouldn’t be a political issue.  As a kid who grew up in Iowa I felt that a great education was my birthright.  It should be my son’s birthright as well.  It’s time to lead Mr. Governor.


Patrick J. Kearney



  1. There’s no correlation between spending and educational outcomes. Instead of demanding blanket increases, why aren’t teachers pushing for merit pay?
    We all know there are teachers that work incredibly hard and dedicate everything they have to their students; everyone who grew up in Iowa has a number of teachers who inspired them. Everyone wants to support those teachers. What doesn’t fit in the post-industrial era is pretending that all teachers are replaceable cogs in a machine, that years of experience and highest degree earned are the only two factors that matter.
    Every other industry has adapted and evolved from the WWII system (except of course other government functions) that educators are fighting to hold onto.
    When teachers begin to push to make student achievement the standard for compensation and advancement, you’d find a commensurate increase in public willingness to increase education spending.

    • The only problem with Merit Pay is defining student achievement. Most schools and states who have attempted this have tied the idea of merit to standardized tests, which comes with all sorts of problems. Schools do need to (and do) continually evolve. In a merit system do I, who teaches in a largely homogeneous (although become less-so) population of middle to upper-middle class kids get paid more than my colleagues who teach in an urban area where many more students live in poverty? It’s simply not as simple as saying, “pay the good teachers more.” The issues we face in education aren’t in how we pay the teachers. Schools need to be innovative to prepare students for the 21st century and that is why resources are more important than ever.

      • “The only problem with merit pay is defining student achievement.”

        I have two observations on this statement:

        1. The issue is teacher *effectiveness*, not simply “student achievement”.

        If we really cannot find a way to measure teacher effectiveness, then there is no accountability for outcomes. And in the absence of accountability, teacher compensation and other educational expenditures are purely matters of political power.

        Not only is this a grossly inefficient way to allocate public funds, but it also leads to deplorable corruption of the political process – and a consequential loss of faith in our governmental system.

        2. I suspect unions play a key role in our failure to find a way to assess teacher effectiveness, or even “student achievement”. They throw up numerous objections and road blocks rather than engaging in a good-faith effort to find ways to measure these outcomes.

        And regardless of the sector of the economy, unions ALWAYS object to basing pay – even to a small extent – on performance. They also make it extremely difficult to release teachers who clearly are not meeting even minimum standards of motivation and professional competence. Both these “features” of organized labor are sacred cows that must be defended at all costs.

      • Your point about teacher effectiveness is well taken. Again, it is something that is very hard to measure. Teacher unions are simply made up of teachers who work to make conditions in our schools better. Truly, that is what we hope to accomplish. In my school district our union works closely with our school board and our administrators to be sure that we can attract the best possible candidates for jobs in our district and to insure that all of the best possible conditions exist for great learning opportunities for our students. I know that there is a large segment of people who believe that unions are the root of much evil. That’s not been my experience and there is very little (none that I know of) evidence that busting up unions makes for better schools. Educational expenditures (or lack thereof) have become a reflection of political power and that is too bad. They should be a reflection of how much we value public education.

    • You say there is no correlation between spending and outcomes, well research definitely shows there is no correlation between merit pay and student achievement. (Look at what happened in Atlanta) When people say that, you are saying that teachers are teaching less than their best because they are waiting to be paid more. That’s not true at all. I do believe you are correct, however, that money doesn’t equal higher scores. But, it does keep the people and programs in schools that kids desperately need. I may be wrong, and if I am I apologize, but I’m willing to bet that you aren’t an educator nor have you ever been. I couldn’t disagree with you more… Same with the Gov, let’s maybe put educational matters into the hands of people who know what they are talking about?

  2. In most positions, you can’t tie an individual’s performance directly to the bottom line; maybe sales is the only exception? Almost every manager in the country has to make judgments about who is most productive in the absence of strict quantifications of output. I don’t buy that it’s just impossible to do in K-12 education. Teachers should have a lot of input in implementing the best system, but as of now most seem to just resolutely reject any student-achievement-centered reforms. Widespread political pressure to increase funding will only come when the system is reformed to link performance and pay.

    • It’s not the same as a sales floor. We have inclusive classrooms which include students who have exceptionalities alongside students who are “normal” without needing special education service. We have students from wealthy homes and those who have nothing, not even parents, not even clothes or food. Asking to base teacher pay on “merit” doesn’t make education better. There are too many factors in a students life that can not be controlled by a teacher nor should they be. Some students have everything and still fail. Also blanket assessment and standardization doesn’t provide an accurate assessment. For a teach to make individual education plans for all of their students is what would be needed for merit pay to be fair pay for fair merit. Plus the merit pay isn’t based on teacher merit but on student merit. Would you want your pay decided by a child? How bout a child who doesn’t speak English? Or a child on so many medications that if they miss a pill, they might just end up commiting some form of an atrocity? Or would you want your pay decided on the merit of that child’s parent? The one who was arrested for selling drugs to an undercover cop or the one who abuses their family or the one who doesn’t provide food for their own offspring? Or the administrator who is not reviewed based on merit? Maybe they should become buddy buddy with their friends and grant them “merit” but not the others, or maybe they have to fill a quota of merit and no merit.

      Merit pay is more expensive than one might think. Even the very best teachers will suffer from merit pay. Students do deserve the best. But where will the good teachers come from when all the bad ones leave? Why not pay a teacher for ever student they handle as we pay lawyers? Each student is different, they learn differently, they have their own unique circumstances. Pay a teacher to teach the individual rather than the standard. These aren’t cars in a showroom, they are citizens. You want merit pay, then the system must stop trying to manufacture bots and start bringing out accountable, responsible, industrious people.

      Plus the requirements of students today in every field of study is much higher every year. Our kids today are doing things in a classroom that most adults still can’t even do. Combine rigor with a culture of I want it all and I want it all right now… Let’s just say many students are incapable to meet the requirements. Not because they can’t, but because they give up and move on to something else and they live in a society where it’s cool to be stupid and immoral and disobedient.

      We give and give, they take and take… Teaching no responsibility and no accountability. Failure is a necessity for learning and for innovation.

      Maybe let teachers select their pool of students?
      Maybe allow students to select their teachers?
      Maybe allow families to choose their school?
      And who will find it all? Mind that much of the above is already in place.

      Not all of a students growth needs to be academic and not all of that growth can be measured in a short span of time. Think about your own attitude toward your own education. You might learn more from those experiences now, as an adult, in reflection than you actually did while enrolled. Are we going to then begin retrospective pay adjustments? That would only be honest. And not all of what you learned was on the test. Ever suffer test anxiety? Merit pay on mental, physical, emotional, social health?

      Why target classroom teacher for merit pay and not any other government position? Most of that money for merit pay doesn’t go to teachers, it’ll go to an administrator appointed to evaluate those merits.

      Our society claims for free market education, that leaves out a large portion of society. Our society claims for socialization…that leaves out the top and bottom of the bell curve in every classroom.

      The issue is much bigger than money and much bigger than the classroom.

      • Uh, exactly my point. Almost no position is, but managers of engineers, accountants, college professors, fishermen, HR professional, marketers, symphony musicians, etc. still have to figure out how to separate the employees contributing the most—even in the absence of a direct link between daily tasks and some end product. Why are educators so resistant to this basic dynamic of every non-government industry? If you don’t want it to be standardized testing (and I agree there’s a great case to made this isn’t nearly the best metric), start making productive suggestions instead of wringing your hands. Every other industry has made these adjustments since WWII, and **you owe it** to the children you are employed to serve and the taxpayers who provide your salary to improve the system.

    • That might be your point but not my point. Saying that you can have the managers of engineers, accountants, college professors, fishermen, HR professional, marketers, symphony musicians, etc. figured out by an end product is just that, an end product created solely by those professionals with very little to do with students. Which one of the above has to take into consideration and actually deal with children and their circumstances? Managers of engineers, HR professionals, professors all deal with trained adults and have a tangible result at the end. Accountants deal with tangible assets that are predictable and easily quantized, college professors who are teaching in addition to their tangible research, don’t have to deal with parents (assuming most college students are 18+) and can fail a student without much intervention needed—the university student does or does not. (Furthermore, there is a growing number of college professors who are not full time and have to get second jobs just to survive as well). Fishermen have full or empty nets at the end of the day and are also all trained adults. Marketers manipulate desire through research… This one is closer to the classroom, but at the end of a quarter, if the market strategies failed, the only thing at stake is their own person…not the lives of children. Musicians, obviously it’s all their own merit, if you can’t play the part they’ll find someone who will.

      Granted the end product for education is to manufacture a person who does well on tests, but even you say that’s not the best metric. A field that involves adults as the bottom line is one thing, a field that involves children and their social, intellectual, and physical changes and development is something else. It is not easily quantized, but as mentioned in another comment easily manipulated and corrupted, eg. Atlanta.

      How would you suggest that we separate teachers who produce and those who don’t? Unlike the above careers you mention where adults choose their path, students are not allowed to avoid the required content that we’ve all agreed every person should know. Even then a D is still passing. Furthermore there are proficiency level grades as well…yet do you wanna go to a doctor who is 80% effective or proficient? How about have your accountant that only made it through 99% of your taxes. Symphony Musicians at the least are 100% or nothing. Yet in school, that bar is very flexible. Plus those professionals get to choose what their target is, what materials they use, who they sell to etc., teachers don’t get to select their students.

      What you also don’t recognize is that teachers ARE offering suggestions and not just wringing their hands. How ignorant a comment. The only constant thing in education is change. Education is ALWAYS changing. ***You and every citizen owe it to teachers to do your homework and listen!*** maybe their would be more teachers offering suggestions if:
      1. They got paid for their time. I say this because teachers are constantly having to do more and more and more for less and less and less. Not even adjustments for inflation. Also many teachers, especially music teachers are faced with having to recruit and retain their students to even have a job. A math, English, science teacher can piss off a kid or a parent, but that student will still have to take a math class next year. Elective teachers piss off a kid….the numbers go down. Not only that but think about society and peer pressure not just the daily hormone changes.
      2. Instead of being under attack by people NOT involved or not even aware of education, they could spend more energy in publicizing and litigating their creative new solutions to the world….which they do every day in the world of each unique classroom.
      3. Teachers in this country were actually valued as educators and as professionals. Instead of assigned blame for things they have no control over.

      People want to fix education? Teachers want to fix people.
      People owe it to their own education to take their own responsibility for their own selves and do their own work. All to o often than not the lesson our on demand karaoke culture teaches is what educators call “learned helplessness.”
      You want better teachers? I want better students.

      Are people so arrogant to not notice that most teachers are doing a great job with what they have and with what they get dealt. What specific aspects in the system are you exactly trying to improve? Be specific.

  3. Pingback: An Update on Educational Funding and Start Dates in Iowa | Adjusting the Sails

    • Let’s use your same rhetoric in a different but similar situation…..

      American soldiers are not adding any value in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. We’ve been throwing money at the problems over there for years and it isn’t doing any good at all. We spend a million dollars per year on each combat soldier and still they whine about needing more and more state of the art technology. They’ve spent a billion dollars a week for fourteen years yet it took them over a decade to find a sick old crazy man living next to a Pakistani military base. This is an embarrassment. Other countries have much more effective militaries. Just look at Switzerland. They have a well-organized inexpensive military and they haven’t wasted money on a war in 168 years. This shows that our soldiers must not know what they are doing. Let’s have soldiers pay based on the value they add to their assignment. Accordingly, the ones stationed in Japan and Germany should be paid a lot more. Those countries are clean and well run and they haven’t bombed any Americans for 70 years. The ones stationed in world hotspots have got nothing but excuses for the bad outcomes of their work. They really need to be held accountable for what they do. Way too many of them are lazy and just looking for a way to suck off the government tit for the rest of their lives. If we got rid of the bad soldiers, our international problems would go away. If they know we will dock their pay whenever war breaks out, maybe they will be motivated to do a better job. Soldiers owe it to the taxpayers to improve the system.

      Does this rhetoric have particles of truth but overall sounds ill-informed and counterproductive? It should.

      • It sounds like you would be shocked to learn that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are promoted and paid based on merit…

        There are certainly improvements that could be made to the military personnel policy understatement of the year) but compared to the education bureaucracy it looks positively enlightened.

        Please try another analogy…

      • The part of this that is the most disturbing is the gov’t will spend a billion a week to blow people up, but won’t spend it to educate minds. Look at the percentage of the federal budget spent on defense compared to education. What if we flipped those numbers around? Also, you cannot do merit pay unless you live in a bubble with the same test group. Throw in one or two disruptive kids and that can lower your accumulative test scores.

  4. I think this is a false premise. If money was the answer, then with over $10,000 per student, our Iowa kids should be thriving. ( For that kind of money, we should be able to have a teacher for every 10-15 kids. I think the system is broken. I don’t defend Gov Branstad (at all), but asking for more money isn’t the solution. Finding a better way to handle the money we have (start by cutting out the top-heavy administration of the educational system) and encourage good solid teachers. I would even suggest looking at privatizing (using a voucher system) as an option to create competition rather than political red tape.

    I am not blaming the teachers. I think teachers are faced with the biggest challenge of our nation’s history. There should be a way to evaluate teachers (not necessarily on results, because I believe parents are a big part of that) but on effort and quality. Those that do not put forth effort should be weeded out. Those that do should be rewarded. There is plenty of money already. We just need to manage it way better than we do.

    • Research hasn’t shown that vouchers or privatization has worked over the long haul. When you walk through our schools I think you really have to be looking for teachers who aren’t doing what is best for young people. I always encourage people to come into our schools and point out the programs and teachers that we can do without. Invariably you will find students and parents who are passionate about those teachers and those programs. Can schools do better? Absolutely, and I can promise hundreds of hours are spent trying to do our jobs better. Quite simply, a 1.25% increase means fewer teachers and fewer programs available for Iowa’s young people.

      • I live in a small community where the school district is in the top 3 of employers in out town. I can walk through the halls and point out several teachers who are not doing the best for our young people. Why are they still there? The system prevents us from eliminating them. I’m not saying they would not be replaced, I’m saying we can’t fire them. When I watch schools in large cities build million dollar football stadiums then talk about closing schools because they can’t afford to pay the teachers who are in them, the system is broken.
        More money is not the answer. When we were at the top of the educational scale we were not spending as much per child as we are now. Think about everything that has changed in the schools and the result. We’re teaching classes that we never used to which is taking away from the basics of Reading, Math and Science. The standards and teaching curriculum change every two years so it is impossible to get a good measure to how or if they are working. Why do we change? Someone read something that showed that it was a good idea. We’re so busy teaching new things we’re not teaching cursive hand writing in school anymore. We supplying laptops and tablets to every student in the school now. That requires a special employee to maintain and upgrade them. I work in the private sector. Guess what, for the second time in my life, I received a 0% raise this year. I’m not a laborer either, I’m an engineer. Times are tough and things have to be done. With the rate of inflation I took a pay cut.
        Money will not solve the school problem. Changing the system and how it’s being used an abused will help.

  5. More money for education and teachers is not just about which teachers to give raises to and which ones not to. It is also, to a great degree, about hiring more teachers! Teacher to student ratio is a very large determining factor in education outcomes, and one that can be effected solely by spending more money. Another one, not necessarily in the education budget per se, but just as important, would be to devote a lot more money to reducing the number of children living in poverty.

  6. I’m a retired Iowa superintendent of schools. At one time Iowa legislators treated schools as fairly as they could. As we approached more & more terms of Governor Braindead, my opinions changed. One of the legislators at that time was quoted to say his favorite activity was reading the daily obituaries looking for any superintendent who had passed. The situation in Iowa is no different than any other state, politics comes first; everything else is a distant second. With the local governments, talk is cheap it takes money to buy whiskey. Good luck Iowa educators. Here’s a hint, put Gov. Braindead out to pasture next election.

    • I love this comment from a former superintendent. Talking about politics coming first and all. I would almost guarantee that he was overpaid and retired with a pension at a young age that most people would die for.
      Teachers are not the biggest problem by a long ways. As was said earlier over-bloated administrations with overpaid people in those positions are the issue.

  7. I am nieve so please help me understand. No preconceived thoughts by me- I really don’t know. Why do schools have so many non-teaching administrators? Look up the administration page of a school and there are a dozen, maybe more. I’m not talking about HR or payroll or those jobs, but mentors and specialists and counselors and the like.

    Perhaps people see those and get frustrated. Schools have done a poor job “marketing” what these positions are, why they are important, and why they need continued funding.

    Educators are in a tough spot. Who is your boss? Administration? Parents? Students? Tax payers?

    • You ask who their boss is?? The government is their boss!!! The government now tells them what to teach, how to teach it, what they can tell your child, how to treat your child and any other aspect of the educational system. Maybe if the government would get out of the education system and let teachers teach and students learn, our students would be better off. Our kids were taught in a private school. I am sure the money would have been used more wisely!! In fact, I am not sure they would have known what to do with it all. Why do you think more people are home schooling and finding other means of educations for their children? They system is broken!!

      I would also like to remind people that we had several terms of democratic control of our governors office and no miraculous changes came about, in fact the going backwards took place in this era. Throwing money at schools has never been the answer!! Get government out of the school system and allow the teachers to teach and students to learn.

    • Sadly, money that should be helping educate our children, thanks to our governor and his advisers will go to even more of these non-teaching staff as funding is going to a “teacher leadership & compensation system” (Division VII of HF 215) that will include model teachers, mentor teachers, instructional coaches, and curriculum and professional development leaders whom can collect taxpayer dollars (to the tune of $50 million per year for the next 3 years) to tell their colleagues how they can do their job better. Great way to focus on putting our students first. That money would be better used to ensure that teachers have the resources needed to educate our children. I won’t even start in on the millions spent on non-teaching staff employed by AEAs.

    • School administrators probably do a bad job marketing those positions and why they are important because more often than not those positions have very very little to do with the classroom and with teachers. Yet most of those administrative positions get paid an exuberant amount when compared with those actually doing the educating. So what reason would an agency need to market those positions for? They say we’re going to give more money to education, yet that money does NOT go into education it goes to the administration of education.

    • By line item no less. But they will publish this for teachers and school supplies…but not for the administration or administrators.

      No budget increase means cutting staff…. I wonder who will get cut first… (Cue dream sequence…it’ll probably be better to cut a few teachers than it would be to cut this nonsense office of administration.

      It will be more burden on teachers to save the burden of administrators. Politics politics politics. This is why there is a legitimate need for teacher unions. And don’t get me wrong, I am as anti Union as they come, but when management is nothing but a hot mess…. Well, unions can still serve there purpose.

  8. we just had a school board meeting the other night, and with out an increase in state funds our general budget can not afford to pay our current staff 😦 if something doesn’t change we will be forced to cut staff, which nobody wants!!!!

  9. Teachers can’t change home life and that is the biggest influence on kids and what causes insurmoutable problems for the best teachers.
    More children are in regular classrooms that have had their brains permanently altered by drugs, alcohol, and/or malnutrition in-utero.
    The majority of Special Ed kids are integrated into the regular classroom.
    I see people giving their babies their phones and I-Pads to keep them quiet, instead of interacting with them.
    Many kid’s main extra curricular activity is playing graphic, violent video games, some at an extremely young age. This also alters their brains.
    Kids are coming from other countries who are illiterate in their Native language, but are put in regular classrooms, and their test scores are thrown in with the others.
    Teachers cannot change the above no matter how good they are.
    One human being can’t be a Teacher, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Nutritionist, Policeman, Translator, and God knows what else, but teachers are expected to be. Teachers are being set up to fail by people in Government offices and other offices, who went to school, so they think they know how to teach.
    Do these same people tell their Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers, Accountants, etc., how to run their professions, because they have, for example, gone to the Doctor over the years? Absolutely not.
    Teachers need help and not In the form of more licensing requirements, more administrators, or more goverment regulation.
    They need money, so class sizes could be 12-15 kids, so maybe they could give each child the individual assistance they need.
    Each legislator should have to go substitute teach for a week in a DSM Middle School with a majority population of free and reduced lunch and a high immigrant population with no extra assistance. Boy would their eyes be opened quickly.
    The Iowa House of Representatives and Governor Branstad are an embarrassment to Teachers. Teachers are too busy and too nice. If any other profession was treated like this, the Governor and House Members’ doors would be beaten down, their phones would ring constantly, and their inboxes would be full.
    Some influential person would be doing media tours and advertising supporting teachers, but no one does that. The disrespect and dire outlook continue.
    It says a lot about “family values” and our society.

    • One person can be all of those things to a child. They are called parents. I know how hard teachers work and how much they don’t get back financially . I always have hope that my son learns while he is in school, but I don’t put all of my eggs in one basket. I take any and every opportunity to teach my son as much as I can. I call it his supplemental education. I also try and balance it with things that schools have had to cut such as music, art, and other creative endeavors. If politicians were left to decide what children learn, all we will end up with is accountants, lawyers, doctors, and engineers. Who will keep the creative part of the human condition alive? Who will help fill the art museums? Who will write the next symphony? The next great novel? Analytical and athletic jobs seem to be the only careers that children are being told to aspire to? We all want our children to succeed, but why would anyone wait for someone else to decide how and what their own child will learn? Charter schools and vouchers aren’t the answer. They may teach more in the class room, but where are the social skills children need to become well communicated adults? The answer is the other classroom. Also known as my living room, kitchen, son’s bedroom, anywhere he and I happen to be. In those places he decides what new things he wants to learn, and I go about finding ways to teach him all that I have learned myself in 42 years. I appreciate all that the good teachers are doing to teach my son, but it is my job and responsibility for the outcome of his education.

  10. You claim to have taught from 1990 and lay all the blame at the feet of the Republicans for the last 25 years; what about the 12 years from 1999 to 2011 that the Democrats were in office (Vilsack and Culver)? Everything was rosey then? Looks like some one is trying to politicize the issue and I think any one with some common sense can figure out who. By the way, there are no birthrights to anything. You’re guarenteed to live and die, everything else you must work for.

    • I don’t claim to have taught since 1990, I have taught since 1990. Robert, the politicization of education has certainly not made schools better on any front. My point is that the current Republican legislature is choosing to not negotiate with their colleagues from across the aisle. The recommendation of the Governor and legislative Republicans will result in programs and staff being cut at schools throughout Iowa. If the Governor wants Iowa to have “World Class Schools” then he needs to either fund schools in a way that allows us to at least catch up with the national average for per pupil spending or offer a plan that explains where there is an army of better qualified educational specialists ready to improve Iowa’s Schools and do it for less money than those of us currently dedicating our lives to education. When all 330 Iowa school districts say that a 1.25% increase in funding is not adequate I need to hear from someone with a plan that knows better than those who are doing the job. To be frank I’m just tired of hearing that education is the only organization in the world that should improve with decreasing resources. We need new roads, it costs money, the Governor wants to improve his office, he wants a 9% increase in funds. Why are schools different?

      • Schools are different because they have fiercely fought all efforts to increase accountability. The claim that standardized test results are the only way to implement merit pay is a straw man. Find a way to compensate the better educators more generously and weed out the incompetent ones—these steps will start to make education spending correlate with student achievement. You don’t have to strictly use standardized test results, that argument is BS.

        I don’t know how many times it has to be said or how many ways to say it: there is widespread support for schools but not an appetite for large budget increases when spending doesn’t have anything to do with better quality.

      • You keep bringing up the 9% increase in his office. Have you actually looked at the numbers? I looked it up when he released his new budget proposal. It was insanely low number compared to the education busget. So you cannot even compare the two percentages. I want to say it was somewhere in the 180-200 thousand range. So let’s say it is 200,000. A 9% increase is 18,000 dollars. That added to the education budget would not even increase it 1%. So please stop using the % and start using the numbers so you quit misinforming people and making Branstad look bad. And for all that say need to quit giving the big tax breaks to big company’s. You’re idiots. How else is he supposed to compete with other states to bring in large amount of jobs, which in return will be more people/families moving to Iowa. Which in return adds a lot more state income tax dollars added to the system.

      • Thanks for the constructive reply Kenny. The issue is that the Governor believes that a 9% increase in his office budget will make his office more effective for the people of Iowa. Yet, he is asking schools to be “world class,” but do it with less money. The point is that I agree with the governor, it takes resources to see improved results. I either want him to fund education at a level in which we can maintain and improve the programs our communities expect from our schools, or admit that he doesn’t care about having “world class schools” and just wants us to get by with less each year, or come up with a better plan than those in place in the 330 school districts in Iowa who have told him that his funding plan is inadequate. The Governor is certainly allowed to provide huge tax breaks to the wealthiest Iowans and to large corporations (who coincidentally fund his campaigns), but at what point do we stop dropping taxes so that there is enough money to do the work that needs to be done in the state of Iowa? Read a little bit about how massive tax breaks are doing for their state at the moment. If that’s where people want to head, then I guess we will see how it works out.

        Kenny, I’ll give you a little tip. We’re not idiots. We may disagree, but we’re not idiots. I’ll only speak for myself. The young people of Iowa deserve a world class education and that will happen when the brightest young people enter the teaching profession, when our young people have access to the best technology, and they have access to the broadest and most rigorous curriculum possible. The Governor believes our schools should have fewer programs, fewer teachers, fewer activities, and less technology. It’s that simple Kenny. And it’s his right to believe that, and it’s my right to tell him that I think he’s wrong. 20 years from now we may be able to see who had it right.

  11. Coming from a family with three generations of teachers and education administrators in it, it is not fair to send my children to a school in which the educator in the room can’t be terminated or let go unless they die. AND the educator automatically gets a pay raise, along with a tax payer funded pension no matter what they teach or don’t teach. No other profession protects their own like the education system which is the majority of the problem. Get rid of the poor teachers and teachers know who they are.

    It is time for the entire system to be overhauled, not just individual classrooms or teachers. Use the technology available today to be able to teach each child at their own pace. This way if there is a child that is progressing faster than others, they can continue to progress rather than being held back to the “average” of the classroom. In addition, the child that needs more help can spend the time they need to learn at their pace. I’ve seen many times where an advanced child is restrained by the majority of the class that can’t keep up.

    We don’t need more teachers or administrators in the education profession. We need to adapt to the way the children learn which isn’t the same as it was 100 years ago.

    • The education profession has frequently negotiated for adequate salaries as well as decent health care and fair pensions. If these jobs are so cushy, I am always curious why there aren’t more people beating down the door to take these cushy jobs (and apparently willing to do it for less money, since we are so overpaid). Schools will continue to adapt to new learning styles, but I hope I never see a day when there isn’t a value in having students get together and learn how to collaborate.

      • Patrick,

        I encourage you to be open minded about how easy it is to get in education. The college courses aren’t difficult and once tenure is obtained it basically goes on cruise control. In our district, there were over 2,000 applications for one teaching position. By looking at laws of supply and demand (think oil), compensation shouldn’t be high because you can find a good teacher in one of those applicants. If there was a shortage in teachers, then yes, compensation should be high. The is no need to argue that a teacher works over time. In our district the school day is six hours long. Add in grading papers and such, yeah, approximately 8 1/2 hours. Not a big deal compared to some proffessions.

        Everyone chooses their own profession and if you want to complain then get out. I don’t see teachers in the middle of a war zone or gang battles daily nor do I see them on the verge of being sued because they lost a life on the operating table or they allowed one of their employees to disregard safety procedures and blew up a gas station.

        Finally, it is fair for us teachers to start paying for our own retirement rather than expecting a golden parachute from the tax payers. Once we accept that we shouldn’t be put on this pedestal for others to look up to, we can start making meaningful changes in education.

  12. Thank you for this letter. I grew up in Iowa and until I had children of my own, didn’t really realize how good we had it there until we moved recently to Colorado. The education standards here are meek to say the least. It’s just not a priority. I’ve lived and worked in other states and Iowa is KNOWN for its high education standards. I certainly don’t want those to die over politics. How sad that would be.

  13. There is only so much that I can do in the classroom with what I am given in terms of student population. Students come from all different walks of life and not all families view education as highly important while other families place a very high value of importance on education. Considering this as well as varying degrees of development both cognitive and emotional which develop at different rates within each student it is inconceivable to believe that I should be paid based on the performance of the students. I should be paid based on my performance in designing and implementing lessons that provide the information and skills for the students to learn as well as activities and assignments to allow practice and time for assistance in learning. Simply assuming that because a student did not perform well is equivalent to my performance as a teacher is an absurd concept when we consider a student as a whole including cognitive and emotional development.

  14. I have an open invitation, as would most any other teacher I have worked with or met, to put your money where your mouth is and join me for a week in a classroom. This is for a few reasons. First of all the money allotted to education most times doesn’t even cover cost of living increases, let alone give schools the option to hire enough staff to have reasonable ratios. ( about 27:1 in our school). Second, in our class rooms we have abilities ranging from up to three grade levels behind (thank you no child left behind), all the way to a student that could achieve at as many as five or six grades above their own, with numerous kids in between. Now in my case I teach 8th grade US History from colonization to reconstruction, which is a subject that very few students know already. So when introducing a new part of our history some kids fly through it and others may take days and still need one on one instruction, most of the time on our own time after contract hours. Third, there are bad teachers out there. I would never say there aren’t, but it is on the school administrators and school board to get those teachers help with documenting and mentoring and assistance. If that teacher still doesn’t improve they can be removed. This doesn’t happen as the red tape that needs to address is too much thanks to our “saviors” in Des Moines. Do I agree education needs to change, yes! But until we are ready and prepared to do that, both with funding and a plan, we need to keep helping as many KIDS as possible.

    We have a saying in our school between colleagues when something isn’t our favorite thing to do but we know it’s right “whatever is best for kids.” I think you will find that with most. This is a great and Nobel profession and until we start treating and recognizing it that way we won’t get those great minds to want to teach. I work in the best job in the world! Come join me sometime and experience it with me. Just make sure you think about doing what’s best for our kids!

  15. I’m curious, the $10,000/student sounds about average across states, so about right – I don’t believe teachers aren’t getting even 10% of that based on class size – I’d be interested in the break down of the rest – administration, buildings, books, ?? and what is the ratio of administration to teachers by the time you get to the school board. I know its not private business, but there are some principles that are shared – at this price it explains charter schools – I think the politicians would be serving the electorate best by making the usage of the funds public record – that likely would increase teacher pay more than raising taxes ever would – I doubt the last education tax increase even got remotely close to paying teachers, and IF they put in on the ballot to directly pay teachers from said tax it would be an interesting check…

  16. Regardless of its time, money or resources, I find it hard to fathom that anyone doesn’t believe that education is key to any number of (social, economic, mechanical, etc,) advances in this country. We need our leaders to behave in a manner that is consistent with that belief.

  17. I agree that Education should get similar increases in funding as other depts. But the assumption is the more you spend the better your education program will become. That is simply not the case, you could spend a million dollars per student and achieve less with more (just as our Govt does}. With out the parents behind the child to learn, success in life is fleeting. With the deterioration of the Family Unit (divorce and single parent) there has been an increase in child anxiety to focus and succeed. With a stable family comes stability and success. Yes, there are some stories of success when the family unit lies in ruins. But for the most part the child struggles and with a parent who is over worked and burdened with making ends meet.

    I know I will receive a lot of flack but DEEP DOWN you know it’s true and we’ve seen it throughout the Nation. We’ve shoved more money down rabbit hole in this Nation for education and our world rankings have only gotten worse.

    Another thing is the unions of the Teachers are liberal spun machines and many only care about their wages and retirement funds and also shoving down liberal ideology upon the fresh clay minds of students.

    Our biggest mistake was taking God out of the classroom whether you like it or not. Seems we can study and promote all other religions and evolution but Christianity and Creation are mortifying talking points for most teachers.

    Not all teachers are set with a liberal agenda but for the most part they are.

    Politics is not your only fear… For the liberal thinker the fear is NOT controlling the biased views of the future voters, workers and leaders of America

    Just as Stalin said “Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.” Our education system is in the control of the liberal thinkers today who want to transform America from which it was founded on, to a vastly different monster that they control with what they teach and through their rewriting of history in the text books.

    Have fun picking this apart… BUT YOU ALL KNOW DEEP DOWN inside your Soul my words are truthful and the truth always HURTS and makes one DEFENSIVE and VINDICTIVE….

    • Deep down I am a proud husband who has been married for 22 years and an even prouder father of a talented intelligent son. I have dedicated my life to helping young people become more creative, more thoughtful, and life-long learners. Education is in the hands of those who have chosen to make it our lives. I certainly don’t feel defensive or vindictive, just proud of my profession and eager to make Iowa a great place to live and learn.

    • There is a discipline and content area dedicated to educating our students to achieve the best in their overall lives. Ideally, every child would be born to a loving, dedicated parents. In the absence of that- there are teachers. In many forms, we fill the gaps and meet the needs of whatever students we are given.

      I am proud to teach a content area specifically dedicated to the betterment of the individual, family unit, and society. Unfortunately, without adequate funding, my content area, the area dedicated to better living, Family and Consumer Sciences, is the first to go.

      I write this, knowing my counterpoint will likely fall on deaf ears. I am not sure why you have pinpointed the education system as the root of society’s ills. My hope is that God (whom you put first) will open your heart to view the people who pour out their souls on a day to day basis, the people who just want what’s best for their students, the people who will fight for that with a ferocity, with a little more compassionate and a little less judgement.

  18. This thread was sent to me by my former preacher’s spouse and I read every post to this point.
    When I started at Stowe School in Des Moines in 1951 at 5 years of age, my sister had taught me to read and arithmetic. Some of my teachers were great, some not so great. Stowe was in a mostly blue collar attendance area. When my youngest son and daughter went there, the classrooms were essentially the same. I fought for sound control because my son couldn’t hear well.
    When they went to Hillis elementary the difference in the physical plant was striking. And I didn’t respect the principal because he didn’t seem to want to work with my son because he caused problems. He wasn’t assaultive or destructive, but he was suspended for three days. I had to go “downtown” to have him get his school work so he wouldn’t be farther behind while suspended. I was uneasy with his evaluation of the teachers because he held grudges. There were some great staff at that school evidenced by their rise in the district.
    I was more than a handful while I attended school, but I yearned to learn and my parents were involved. I tried to do the same for my children. I was gifted and I distinctly remember the teachers that made my education fun and full of quality.
    In my 70 years I know and believe Ben Franklin’s opinion that quality free education is essential for a democracy to thrive. I was not only taught subject matter, but belief in the “scientific method” and problem solving skills. I was taught and practiced social skills and encouraged to learn more. But many of my teachers had summer jobs to better support their families. That was after working more than 40 hours a week during the school year and taking continuing education.
    I’ve seen arts cut from curriculum and physical plants deteriorate. Property tax relief with a false promise to fully replace the lost revenue by the legislature. I’ve seen the property tax base reduced to give tax relief to business. The teachers I know all spend much more than the amount that can be deducted from their income taxes.
    My MA professor passed along lots of cliches. I believe “TINSTAAFL” is appropriate for all things public. There is no such thing as a free lunch. I don’t want to pay any more in taxes than I have to. My children and grandchildren don’t live in Iowa, but I believe I have a duty to help make this city, county and state the best I can. I gladly pay my fair share and there are a lot of people who make a lot more money than I do who need to pay their fair share, as should all businesses who operate in Iowa.
    Governor, 1.5% increase is immoral. 4% is only slightly better. Quit giving tax breaks to people and businesses that don’t need them. Restore the progressivity in our tax system and fully fund public education, including preschool, and public safety operations to make our future brighter and our present safer.
    Do your part to make Iowa a leader in public education and don’t take public school funds for private schools. Your legacy depends on this. You don’t want your longest serving tenure marred by the slide our educational system has suffered.

  19. This thread was sent to me by my former preacher’s spouse and I read every post to this point.
    When I started at Stowe School in Des Moines in 1951 at 5 years of age, my sister had taught me to read and arithmetic. Some of my teachers were great, some not so great. Stowe was in a mostly blue collar attendance area. When my youngest son and daughter went there, the classrooms were essentially the same. I fought for sound control because my son couldn’t hear well.
    When they went to Hillis elementary the difference in the physical plant was striking. And I didn’t respect the principal because he didn’t seem to want to work with my son because he caused problems. He wasn’t assaultive or destructive, but he was suspended for three days. I had to go “downtown” to have him get his school work so he wouldn’t be farther behind while suspended. I was uneasy with his evaluation of the teachers because he held grudges. There were some great staff at that school evidenced by their rise in the district.
    I was more than a handful while I attended school, but I yearned to learn and my parents were involved. I tried to do the same for my children. I was gifted and I distinctly remember the teachers that made my education fun and full of quality.
    In my 70 years I know and believe Ben Franklin’s opinion that quality free education is essential for a democracy to thrive. I was not only taught subject matter, but belief in the “scientific method” and problem solving skills. I was taught and practiced social skills and encouraged to learn more. But many of my teachers had summer jobs to better support their families. That was after working more than 40 hours a week during the school year and taking continuing education.
    I’ve seen arts cut from curriculum and physical plants deteriorate. Property tax relief with a false promise to fully replace the lost revenue by the legislature. I’ve seen the property tax base reduced to give tax relief to business. The teachers I know all spend much more than the amount that can be deducted from their income taxes.
    My MPA professor passed along lots of cliches. I believe “TINSTAAFL” is appropriate for all things public. There is no such thing as a free lunch. I don’t want to pay any more in taxes than I have to. My children and grandchildren don’t live in Iowa, but I believe I have a duty to help make this city, county and state the best I can. I gladly pay my fair share and there are a lot of people who make a lot more money than I do who need to pay their fair share, as should all businesses who operate in Iowa.
    Governor, 1.5% increase is immoral. 4% is only slightly better. Quit giving tax breaks to people and businesses that don’t need them. Restore the progressivity in our tax system and fully fund public education, including preschool, and public safety operations to make our future brighter and our present safer.
    Do your part to make Iowa a leader in public education and don’t take public school funds for private schools. Your legacy depends on this. You don’t want your longest serving tenure marred by the slide our educational system has suffered.

  20. Just curious…is this an article about increasing pay for teachers or helping to fund a better education system? I ask simply because the two are not synonymous. I hear a lot of statements about keeping politics out of schools, yet even the author only pinpoints Republicans. As for the military analogy…soldiers aren’t overpaid and they know what needs to be done and want to do it…it’s the leadership (aka: government) that interferes with the mission they are trained to do. Yet the bottom line comes down to something as simple as this…you can’t teach a student that doesn’t want to learn or whose parents are more interested in their activities as opposed to their education. Though I admire the authors point and hope that it is what they sate it to be, for the good of the students, all I see is a request for more money with no plan for ho it would be best utilized to generate a better educated student. Not that our government does any better at this, they always want and never have a plan either, but the last thing I want is more tax dollars thrown at a system that the view of many is not producing a tangible result…and when parents AND teachers argue that school needs to start later so that children can attend fairs or other events without the worry of being in school then I wonder…what IS the focus?

    • Dave, I guarantee you that 90% of the individuals in favor of more than a 1.25% increase in budget are certainly not the same people who argued for a later school date. We would be the individuals arguing that education IS more important than a fair or any other event. We would argue that start dates should be left in the hands of local schools, who know their community best. Most of us simply felt that fighting against that cause was less important than this current one with the budget.

      1.25% would not be contributing to a “pay increase” for myself or any of my colleagues. Simply put, 1.25% is a DEFICIT for most school districts if you factor in inflation and other factors. This article captures it nicely –

      We are simply asking to maintain where we are at, to not cut the services we currently have in place. That’s why this has become political. Let me assure you, if the Democrats were the ones refusing compromise, sticking a number that ultimately results in cuts, I’d be right at the front fighting against them for what I believe too. This is not about which party does what, this is about our legislature doing what is right by our students.

  21. I believe it may be helpful for the writer to come to a better understanding of economies of scale. Arguing that a single office (even a huge one) can be directly compared to a GIGANTIC network of schools, teachers, and staff is… misplaced.

    If I give my son a 10% increase on his allowance I need to account for an extra dollar a week. If I give all the children in my city a 10% raise I need to find a couple of additional jobs and mortgage my house.

    Apples and oranges.

    • The writer has a pretty good understanding of scale. The point is a symbolic one, which is to say that the Governor seems to believe that a 9% increase in his office’s budget will make his office more productive. On the other hand he seems to be saying that our schools should be returning to world class status while on a starvation diet. A lot of smart people believe that Iowa has the funds to do better than 1.25% for education funding this year. My point is that the Governor needs to decide if he wants Iowa to follow the route that Kansas has followed and cut taxes until they simply can’t fund anything or if he really wants world class schools. To be honest, he can’t have both.

  22. I used to work at the Iowa House of Representatives. My sympathies go out to all teachers. Any teacher who is worth his or her weight in gold will always try to improve the system. Thank you for speaking out about this issue, Mr. Kearney. The legislature has a different pay scale from the one that is used for the rest of the state employees. Some of the people who work there are making $70,000 plus/year. With no more than a high school education. I was able to access this information on the DM Register website. My advice to you, Mr. Kearney, is to keep speaking out. I know there is a silent majority on your side.

  23. I agree with all of this that is said… the one thing that would help the teachers and all the comforts levels is tenure. Then they might not get slack in their job. I do love all of the work that the jobs that most of the teachers do. But there seem to be some of the teachers that once the get that tenure they feel that they are safe. But I do think that Governor Brandsad and the legislature is letting down our young kids

  24. Have you ever considered how the national democrat sponsored Common Core standards and the work efforts of the students have changed they don’t have special activities and/or school sponsored sports in Europe and their beating us by a lot in schooling.

    Joseph Hoyne
    Programmer, student, Republican

  25. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Patrick, it is clear that you have a passion for your work and want what is best for the kids. Whenever I am pulled into (or come across) an article on education, I have a few items that I hope are discussed when it comes to improving outcomes. First, it seems to me that a longer school day would be marginally more expensive, i.e. starting the school day at 8AM and ending it at 5PM vs. starting it at 9AM and ending it at 3PM. In addition, many folks would look at this as a raise as their work days would be aligned with the kids school days, eliminating or reducing the monthly cost of childcare. Most importantly, by extending the school day you increase the “face time” that a teacher gets with an “at risk” student, which I believe is our best chance of helping that student eventually become a productive member of society. Second, I would couple the extended school day with year round school. I believe studies have proven that the summer brain drain occurs, and teachers spend precious time every year re-teaching the previous grade, and the brain drain affects the kids who can least afford it the most. Bringing this full circle, if we increased the time in the classroom to the levels described above, would we be able to have our teachers deliver the equivalent of a junior college degree by high school graduation? To some other posters points, our world has evolved, we need to look at evolving how and when we educate in all ways. Increasing funding is often the easy answer to a problem, however when you peel the onion back further you often find it is not the best answer. Are there definitive studies on what I have described above out there that someone could refer me to?

    • I want to be clear. Asking for more than 1.25% is not asking for more money for the personal salaries for any teachers. We are not seeking to “engage” teachers through monetary means. We are asking for money to hire more teachers to teach more students, to create buildings to house more students, to just maintain the systems that are in place. The number of humans isn’t finite, it increases (any parent couple who has had more than 2 children means increase). To my knowledge, even the best intended teacher can’t work soley for “goodwill” or whatever other means you propose to engage them. Construction companies don’t build school buildings for the warm fuzzies. The increase is not asking for increased pay, it is asking to allow to grow school systems in a way that can manage the increased demands.

      Annual projected US inflation rates for 2016 is about 2.14%. If you understand that 1.25% < 2.14%, thank a math teacher.

  26. The Coon Rapids-Bayard School system has gone from 55 educators to 38, 2 principals to 1, a full time superintendent to a 2/5’s sharing agreement, loss of class choices because of this loss of educators. Why? Declining enrollment is the answer and the students in the seats determine how much money a school gets from the state. Each student is worth $6500 to the school, this money goes into the general fund, the only fund monies can come out of to pay educator expenses. Take away only 6 students and that is one teachers salary!

    Let’s not talk buildings or grounds. That is covered by PPEL taxes/property taxes and SILO tax(School Infrastructure Local Option). So our school buildings are all brand new or almost brand new. New bus, you got it, but bus repairs believe or not come out of the general fund, the money used to educate. The legislature has a chance to fix this btw, but the contractor labor unions and Farm Bureau are fighting it. So to clarify, we are over run in building money but not in educating funds.

    Back to the general fund. Again, it is strictly based per student. This is where schools get caught. So you might have 40 students in one class, so you hire two educators, but the class behind only has 25. That is a $100,000 difference. Or worse yet, where we are at is about 28-32 students per grade, too many for one class size, not big enough to support 2 educators, curriculum, support staff, PE, art, music, band, etc. So what now? Well you have one teacher in middle school or high school teaching either four different subjects or four different levels of math to multiple grades. I hope everyone understands this but I’ll break their day down for you by periods for a middle school teacher:

    1 – 6th grade science (kids coming in and out for band)

    2 – 5th grade reading

    3 – 6th grade social studies

    4 – 6th grade reading

    5 – 5th grade science

    6 – 45 minute prep for all the different classes

    7 – 6th grade social studies

    8 – 5th grade social studies

    9 – advisory

    10 – off to coach a sport

    11 – get home and grade papers til 8 or 9 pm

    Now take a big school middle school teachers day:

    1-9 periods 6th grade social studies with a prep period to get ready for the one class and grade papers.

    No coaching go home at 4pm, who wins? Can you base these two teachers on the same merit scale?

    The state got rid of the budget guarantee years ago, this has crushed small schools. This budget guarantee did exactly was it name says, guarantee your budget year to year and protected small schools from wild swings in enrollment. Enrollment is where the schools money comes from, not NEED. So we lose 17 educators, have some (not all) teachers on a hectic schedule, and WHO wins?

    So in closing do one or all of the following:

    – Bring back the budget guarantee so small schools do not have to make drastic cuts every time enrollment moves down or short term hirings when enrollment goes up. (hard to find good educators when they know they are being hired on the short term)

    – Let small schools spend the PPEL/SILO/Property tax monies on educators if they pass a building and grounds inspection. (Contractor Unions and Farm Bureau will fight this but just throwing it out there)

    – Give the raise necessary to bring back the educators we lost and keep it there

    In closing, I would recommend to all to go to your school board meetings, get on a SIAC committee, or an ad hoc committee, like the one I was just on to find way to cut $400,000 out of our school budget as the school works feverishly to educate 400+ students.

  27. I agree with many of your points, but more importantly I greatly admire and am honored by the civility, thoughtfulness, and reflectiveness of your dialogue. Your thoughtful communications show that our profession is made up of people who are truly thoughtful, qualified professionals. Thank you as well for being such a role model for students in political discourse.

  28. Regarding the point of military personnel being promoted on merit. This true, however the promotion in rank is only granted when the rank being promoted to has an empty slot. Applying this to teachers would mean that there would be rank and file teachers above other teachers and until a teacher in a slot opens up when another higher ranked teacher dies, retires, transfers districts, then teachers would be locked in for a long period of time.

    The comment of merit pay becoming demerit pay is more true than anything. I will be on merit pay next year in my district. The system set up is 70% administrative review (political and I forsee lawsuits), 20% student learning outcomes (student growth on a pre learning/lesson assessment and a post assessment—-make the first test harder than the final test or give the same exam), then finally 10% factor based on stakeholder surveys (don’t piss off parents or their students). So who really is in charge of the classroom? These merit pay numbers place administrators as the czar of the school.

    Do we really want our schools to becom companies?
    I again challenge people and say what specifically are you wanting to change? Are you sure it’s a problem that a school can solve? Is it a solution you want to pass on to the company?

    If the United States is a free market educational economy, does that mean the government can mandate your education? Then why not mandate other aspects of life where you can choose to buy a product/service or not but a product/service. Right now Ed is compulsory and socialized and has privatized options.

    Many private schools fair on testing better due to smaller class sizes, less electives, less extracurricular activities, less community services offered to the general public at large, an softer are religious. If a public school teacher could hold the wrath of God above a students head for their behaviors….might mean we get different results.

    We can shuffle educators to the best schools and thus further the advancement of magnate schools where certain ethno-geograpgical areas would simply not get the programs, services, classes, opportunities and options of other areas.

    Also good teachers would do best to follow the money, which is also a problem because so many teachers, good and bad, go into administration and the top of the organization has become way too top heavy. Which many bad teachers go to the district or get promoted unrightfully so and many good teachers go to the district level and leave their classrooms where they were highly effective. Example: Clarke County SD promoting a principal to the district, where her husband also works, after she had basically abused all of her staff.

    Most money that states allocate to districts NEVER makes it to teachers & students, it stays at the district office. So we get rid of bad teachers…where do those students go? Also which good teachers then becomes the target for being bad or needing improvement? The fact of life is that there is always something to work on. Do we really want fault finders auditing every teacher? From the business model, the successful company mentors its employees and trains them. However most of these have an earnings system paying in benefits and salary higher than what teachers make.

    Another question I have is why are we not recruiting and training teachers at least in high school? Schools try to offer more focused career paths for everything except a career path for future educators.

    American culture and society would rather point the finger at schools for their problems and never realize there are three fingers pointing back at them. So I ask again…what specific aspect of education are we trying to reform and is it and should it solely be the duty of teachers to fix? How much are you willing to surrender of your child’s life to “the company?” Will you grant the school dominion over your child’s behavior and dominion over your own home? As a teacher I see many many parents who are not doing a good job raising their family. I also see many problems with actually good familial support but education cannot be a priority.

    From where I see it, the bigger problem is not that simple. It is also not a problem with schools but a problem with our entire culture and world view as an American society.

    If you’re a parent, what are you doing for your progeny to be successful in school? (School is not just an academic institution). What are you doing to help your school? What are you giving in return?

    If you’re not currently a parent of school children, what are you doing to ensure that the future generations will be able to take care of themselves so you don’t have to? We are all stakeholders in education whether we like it or not. Also if the American educational system was so bad, why have the most revolutionary and constant best ideas been created and founded in the United States? There is a big difference between inventing and innovating and America on the world stage has been doing both very well for last two centuries.

    However I don’t think we know how to handle prosperity like we handled bondage, and as such are once again degenerating ourselves back into bondage.

  29. Most of educational practices are based on transportation. One idea is to teach students to the natural cycles of the brain during the various times when the brain is more creative, teach the arts classes like performing arts and language arts and visual arts or some creative CTE classes like fashion, culinary arts, martial arts, wood shop, auto body etc… Later in the day or evening teach the more logical and algorithmic classes like science and math. Etc., etc.
    We know when the brain is primed and what time frame it’s primed for. However there will be no reform to do that because of transportation. Why not??

  30. Pingback: What Now? | patrickjkearney

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