So, more than a month after sending a few letters to the Governor about my concerns regarding his lack of leadership on education issues I finally got, what appears to be, an automated response from his “adivsor” Linda Fandel. I guess I should appreciate that I got a response, but as you can see below it doesn’t veer from Republican talking points about education. What goes unsaid in Ms. Fandel’s response is that the TLC funds Republicans have rolled into their education plan were never intended to impact supplemental school aid numbers. Also, while the Governor’s claim of strong education funding seems convincing, the use of numbers going back to 2011 is a little disingenuous. The biggest increase in that time period was $178 million for FY 2012 that was really replacement for previously underfunded state aid and federal state fiscal stabilization funds which helped keep the state afloat during the recession. In reality Iowa continues to fall farther behind the national average in education spending.
The legislature may or may not end up coming up with some agreement on school funding for next year. If there is someone who actually believes that the Governor has shown leadership on this issue more power to you. He sure showed some leadership when the “tourism industry” got into his ear about school start dates. He pushed that legislation through in a big old hurry. But, to actually have a dialogue about our schools, he doesn’t seem that interested. Is money the only issue? Of course it isn’t, but it is part of the issue and it is the issue at hand in the legislature right now. The bigger philosophical point is of course that the Governor and Republican legislators are choosing to reduce state revenues by diverting money from schools and other state responsibilities in order to provide tax breaks on corporate property taxes. By doing this they get to talk about how “tight” the budget is. This is really where the debate is at and time will tell how this ends, but I would continue to argue (I know I’m a broken record on this) that we can see how this ends if we look to what is happening in Kansas.
This is where are headed and I haven’t had anyone give me a credible argument as to why Iowa won’t be in this exact situation in a couple of years. The Governor certainly hasn’t talked a lot about the Kansas economy lately as he follows Governor Brownback’s playbook. The framing of the debate has to be about doing what is best for the young people of Iowa both in our schools and with our resources. We actually have to talk about what our priorities really are. We need an honest conversation. Just SAYING you want a globally competitive education system doesn’t make it so. The Governor actually has to engage in a real conversation about our state’s priorities and our public schools specifically if he wants to call himself a leader.
Below is the form letter that I got on May 8th. Just to be clear, I still have questions Ms. Fandel.
Thank you for writing the Office of Governor Terry E. Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds about preK-12 education funding.
Governor Branstad submitted his biennial budget proposal to the Legislature in mid-January, with a focus on targeted funding to continue the work of creating world-class schools. His recommendations include $250 million over two years for Iowa’s new Teacher Leadership and Compensation System to improve instruction and raise achievement. Under the governor’s budget proposal, supplemental state school aid will grow more than 28 percent between FY2011 and FY17. Other targeted funding over the next two years includes $27 million to help students read by the end of third grade and $20 million to better support high-needs schools.
Giving Iowa students a globally competitive education is one of the governor’s and lt. governor’s top priorities. It also is crucial to maintain adequate funding for other state obligations. All this must be done with a budget that is fiscally responsible and sustainable long-term.
Thank you again for writing. Please feel free to contact me with any concerns in the future.
Office of the Governor
Linda Fandel, Policy Advisor