Remember when everyone was fired up about school funding in Iowa? It wasn’t that long ago really. Just a few weeks. So, surely after several weeks of thoughtful conversation and debate at the statehouse Iowa is closer to resolution on the resources that the state is going to provide for the students of Iowa right? I suspect that if you are reading this blog you know the answer to that question. If anything, our legislators are farther apart than ever on school funding.
Why? I know that my questions come across as rhetorical, but I’m actually asking if anyone has an answer. How can we be farther apart after weeks of opportunity to talk and find common ground? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Over the course of the last few weeks I have had a variety of responses to my blog writing. My favorite responses are from young teachers who thank me for speaking out. That really warms my heart. Among the other responses were from a man who has accused me of committing a felony by offering to donate money to any candidate who would answer some questions about why legislators won’t compromise. Seriously, he wanted me charged with a felony. I have also had several people say that I (and teachers in general) am the real problem. That’s the one that gets to me. You see, I am reflective by nature and while I want to dismiss those people, it bothers me that there are people who believe that teachers want to see funding increased only so that we can line our own pockets.
Are we the problem? I hope not. Someone has to advocate for resources for Iowa’s kids. I am certain that big business has advocates at the Capitol. I know that there are advocates for all sorts of things in the ears of our legislators. So, all I want to do is raise one small voice to advocate for Iowa to hold on in terms of school funding. I want to be an advocate that we don’t fall farther behind the rest of the country in terms of the resources we provide to our young people. I want Iowa’s schools to be stronger 10 years from now than they are today. My son deserves that.
In the last six weeks Iowa’s legislators have talked about fireworks, voted to deny paid family sick leave, killed an anti-bullying bill, and the Iowa House Republican Twitter page proudly declares that they are working hard to protect the 2nd amendment. So, they’ve been busy. What have teachers been doing in the last six weeks? Well, I can only speak for myself, but I have watched my students do some pretty amazing things. I saw a young sophomore girl get a perfect score on her flute solo at state contest after working incredibly hard. My students gave great performances at concerts and contests. I had students in my theory class write original compositions that utilized cutting edge technology. As a teacher I have also spent hours discussing effective instructional strategies with my colleagues. I have had the pleasure to observe colleagues lead students in incredible discussion and guide them through complex projects. Teachers even sometimes disagree about what is best for our students, but instead of simply digging in our heels and refusing to compromise we look for common ground and consensus.
I have been a little shocked to know that legislators read this blog. I had someone send me a response from a Republican legislator to one of my blogs and the legislator said I was “wrong”. Yet, in the course of his response to this person the legislator didn’t refute anything I had said. This isn’t about right and wrong at this point. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I just want to have a conversation about what we want for the future of Iowa. If you can convince me that corporate tax breaks for commercial property is more important than funding education in Iowa make your pitch. Don’t tell me that you would gladly fund our schools if only there were more money when you are the ones who are cutting off revenue to create these tax cuts. Don’t tell me you want world class public schools when you actually want more privatization and charter schools (who don’t have to play by the rules that you enact for public schools). Let’s actually talk about how Iowa schools can get better.
There are those who will still say that teachers are part of the problem. There may be no way to change their minds, but I hope those people take a moment to talk to young people. As we get to the end of the school year our schools are filled with thank you notes from students and parents thanking teachers. I am embarking on a new adventure in my career and upon that announcement I have been flooded with kind people sharing their thoughts on my teaching career. It has been overwhelming. The fairly small group of people who believe that I am part of the problem are going to have a hard time convincing me when I (like all teachers) have hundreds of people who know that I just want what is best for my students. The legislature will do (or not do) what they think is best. I don’t have to agree with them, but I won’t let them act without hearing from me. I will advocate and I will share what I believe to be best for the future of Iowa. As a citizen I just want to be sure that they can’t say they didn’t hear from me when it turns out that investment in education would have been more valuable than corporate tax cuts.