This post will bury my recent post on teaching strategies I suspect, but I guess that’s how it goes. Iowa Speaker Kraig Paulsen did respond to my note to him today. I want to thank him for that and give him credit for taking the time to respond. I will include his note to me and my response to him below. The simple truth is that he seems committed to holding funding at a 1.25% increase for our schools. I continue to believe that my reading of the state’s financial situation leads me to believe Iowa can do better. I encourage people to continue to make their voices heard. Our Republican lawmakers are enamored with massive budget cuts and tax breaks for large businesses. I would encourage everyone to study what is happening in Kansas to get a sense of what this does for state budgets.
I would also encourage you to read my friend Burton Hable’s assessment of what a 1.25% increase in state school aid will do to our school budgets.
Below is Representative Paulsen’s note to me and my response to him.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Contrary to the preconceived notions you may have about me, I do appreciate hearing from Iowans on important issues facing our state, including school funding.
I would like to assure you, House Republicans and I have considered Democrats’ compromise funding plan, as well as several other plans. This issue simply boils down to money, or lack thereof. I’m sure you know by now, our current proposal combined with teacher leadership money is a $100 million commitment, over half of the $180 million in new revenue coming into the state is going to K-12 schools under the Republican plan. The rest of Iowans’ priorities like Medicaid, economic development, and public safety have to fit within the remaining $80.9 million in revenue. The increase in Medicaid alone is projected at over $200 million. There will be cuts in other areas of state government in order to be able to give schools the 1.25% increase in funding.
This commitment is a significant investment in our schools, gives administrators a level of funding they can count on and keeps Iowa taxpayers in mind.
Thanks again for your input.
I very much appreciate your response. I do think that we need to continue have a dialogue about what Iowans value. I would make three brief points. First, many very bright people believe that there is money to fund education at level beyond a 1.25% increase. Our ability to fund the things that Iowans believe are important (which includes education) is impacted by your caucus’s desire to cut taxes and create tax breaks for big business at an extreme level. I would encourage you to study what is happening in Kansas as an example of what happens when taxes are slashed. Second, the teacher leadership money was never intended to supplant basic school funding (ask former Department of Education Director Jason Glass). I serve as a Lead Teacher at Johnston High School and the program is already paying benefits, but those gains will be negated when we lose programs and classroom teaching staff because funding is not keeping up with inflation. Lastly, there needs to be a real dialogue about how schools are going to get better in Iowa when we are not keeping up with per pupil spending. I guess a part of me simply wants Republicans to admit that you are willing to accept mediocrity in our schools. Like every organization, it takes resources to supply our communities with what they have come to expect from us (and what legislators demand from us). If we want to improve highway infrastructure we have to pay (and I will willingly pay). If our tourism industry wants to make more money we change the school start date so that they can have more cash in their pockets. Republicans somehow believe that schools can do more with less. It doesn’t compute Mr. Speaker.
The people of Iowa want you to move past 1.25%. You know it is possible and the elected officials of the Iowa Senate have proposed a perfectly reasonable compromise. You say you appreciate hearing from Iowans. Listen to them. If you are getting an avalanche of people telling you that schools should be laying off teachers, cutting arts programs, and generally offering fewer options to their students then I will say that I’ve misread my fellow Iowans, but I suspect that isn’t the case. I suspect Iowans are telling you to push beyond 1.25%. I’m begging you to listen.
I do appreciate your taking the time to respond and my offer to serve as an ambassador to more substantial conversation about the future of education in Iowa stands. I am a person who believes in consensus. Iowans want world class schools and that is going to take all of our efforts and it certainly requires more than lip service from legislators. Be a leader. Leaders listen and leaders seek consensus. It is what you surely want from teachers, and it is what we want from you.
Patrick J. Kearney
Lead Teacher, Instrumental Music Instructor, Johnston High School