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Tod Bowman

Herald Staff Writer

With the start of a new school year, students of all ages are returning to Iowa classrooms in our K-12 schools, community colleges and universities.

Iowa has a tradition of educational excellence, something that we build on each and every year in the legislature. This year, we focused on improving education in ways that will help Iowans build a prosperous future for our state. They include:

• Providing more intensive science, technology, engineering and math education through a $4.7 million investment in STEM.

• Keeping tuition affordable at our community colleges, state universities and private colleges so all Iowa families can take advantage of the educational opportunities that lead to great jobs.

• Reducing Iowa’s skilled worker shortage with a $15 million investment in worker training that will help Iowans qualify for skilled job openings at local businesses.

We also voted to:

• Ensure Iowa kids are good readers by keeping class sizes small in kindergarten through third-grade so that young students get the one-on-one time they need with their teachers. Plus, a new statewide Iowa reading research center will spread the best practices for teaching reading.

• Invest in education, research and training facilities at our community colleges and universities so that they can continue preparing a highly skilled workforce.

• Continue our commitment to strong local schools by raising academic standards, increasing teacher and administrator effectiveness, and supporting innovative teaching. This is a good first step on education reform, our multi-year effort to enhance educational opportunities for all Iowa students.

I also voted for important investments in student achievement that were not taken up by the House, including a 4 percent increase in basic state support for local schools for the 2013-2014 school year. These funds would have helped pay for textbooks, heating bills, technology and other necessities for students and teachers to be successful.

While I’d hoped to do more, I’m proud of what we did achieve by working together on this year’s education initiatives. We made investments that will pay off long into the future.

How to best improve our schools is always at the top of my agenda. We must build on the good things that are happening and fix real problems to keep Iowa moving forward.

Area school districts recently heard from Jamie Vollmer in regard to school improvement. To check out what Jamie has to say, visit www.JamieVollmer.com. If you have ideas or suggestions, I’d like to hear them.

Senator Tod Bowman serves the people of Iowa’s Senate District 13, which includes Jackson County, northeast Clinton County and southeast Dubuque County.