Iowans know we can’t keep doing the same things in our schools and expect better results. We must build on our successes.
Unfortunately, we just finished a difficult legislative session, which was forced into overtime by demands for deep cuts to education at all levels.
What we need now is a road map to real results, not more empty rhetoric to distract us. That’s why I’m closely following this month’s Iowa Education Summit. As a teacher and legislator, this event is of great interest to me. I hope it generates good ideas to continue building on Iowa’s tradition of educational excellence.
I’ve listened to local community leaders, parents and educators. Weakening state support for local schools is not their idea of education reform, nor are these recent anti-education proposals from Gov. Terry Branstad:
• Abolishing Iowa’s universal preschool program. Why abandon a successful program that served 67 percent of Iowa’s 4-year-olds last year and return to an approach that reached fewer than 20 percent of Iowa kids?
• No increase in basic state support for K-12 public schools for the next two years. This plan would have increased class sizes, caused good teachers to be fired, and reduced course offerings and opportunities for Iowa students.
• Sharp cuts in funding for our colleges and universities. The result would have been double-digit tuition increases that could put higher education out of reach for middle-class families.
Fortunately, Iowans spoke up. Republican and Democratic legislators listened and, at the very last minute, the worst cuts were avoided or softened.
Iowans share the same goals when it comes to improving our schools, so as we go forward, let’s keep the focus on increasing teacher and school administrator effectiveness, raising academic standards and supporting innovation that improved learning.
We’re already working to achieve these goals by:
• Keeping the best teachers in Iowa classrooms.
• Guaranteeing a high school diploma means young people are ready to succeed in the global economy.
• Ensuring that every child starts school ready to do their best.
• Providing workers with innovative job training opportunities.
Despite these steps and the positive results they’ve produced, we must do more to improve our schools and provide opportunities for the next generation of Iowans.
I welcome the chance to discuss real education reforms. This debate can be much more useful than the months we’ve just spent fighting off deep, misguided cuts to our local schools.
Please give me your suggestions on how we can build on Iowa’s tradition of educational excellence.
Senator Tod Bowman serves the people of Iowa's Senate District 13, which includes Jackson County, northeast Clinton County and southeast Dubuque County.