Dear Governor Branstad,
It is June 24th and you still have not taken action on the school spending bill that was passed on June 5th by Iowa legislators. Is there any reason it is taking so long? Is there any part of the bill that is confusing? Every day that you wait makes it harder for school districts to do crucial planning for the 2015-2016 school year. It is, to be quite honest, ridiculous at this point.
When your friends in the tourism industry and the State Fair board wanted you to change the school start date you were a man of action. That legislation got put together and got done in a hurry. It had nothing to do with better schools or allowing communities to determine what was best, but you were bold in your leadership.
When it comes to legislation that will actually provide resources to Iowa Schools (not enough, but I’ve already written to you about that) you don’t seem that interested. I get that you aren’t a fan of one time money. I get that you think a 1.25% increase in spending is some sort of money grab by teachers, but you need to act and you need to act now.
You need to truly lead when it comes to public education in Iowa. In your Condition of the State address you said that Iowa’s young people were counting on you and Iowa’s legislators to you to give them a world class education. What happened during the last six months that has moved Iowa’s schools towards being world class? My response would be that not a thing transpired in your office or the state house that helped to make our schools world class. Your bullying bill was met with a giant thud (any lobbying groups that you think might be responsible for that? you’ve been pretty silent), long term spending for K-12 education was set at the lowest proposed rate, and you haven’t even signed that legislation yet.
So, has anything happened in the last six months to make schools world class? Well, sure things have happened. All sorts of things have happened in classrooms across Iowa. Young people worked hard and teachers facilitated all types of learning. You, as our state’s leader, need to investigate what is going on in Iowa’s schools. You need to direct communities, legislators, parents, teachers, administrators, school boards, and students to share what makes Iowa’s schools great and what will make them even greater. You need to empower teacher leaders (created by your Teacher Leadership legislation) to put a spotlight on the best educational practices happening in Iowa’s classrooms. That would be leadership Mr. Governor.
I am asking as a parent, a teacher, a teacher leader, and an Iowan that you change the conversation. First, sign the school funding bill. It is past time to get that done. Then, let’s change the conversation. Let’s talk about learning. Let’s talk about shared leadership in our schools. If you have ideas about better schools in Iowa, by all means share them. Simply forcing austerity onto Iowa’s schools isn’t going to be enough over the next year. Iowans are going to hold you and our legislators accountable to do the work you were elected to do. Lead!
Patrick J. Kearney