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Ragan: Iowa has slipped to 15th in the nation in education

Senator Amanda Ragan
Senator Amanda Ragan

From Senator Amanda Ragan –

Iowa is one of the best states in the country to raise children. In this year’s national Kids Count survey, Iowa ranks high for economic well-being, health, and family and community. Overall, Kids Count puts Iowa #7 nationally, up a notch from last year.

What are we doing right? The number of Iowa children without health insurance has dropped dramatically as have low birth weight babies. Iowa is seeing fewer cases of child death, teen drug and alcohol abuse, and babies born to teen parents. More kids are attending preschool and graduating on time from high school.

However, the Kids Count report also shows us a couple key areas where we can improve the lives of Iowa kids.

First, the percentage of children living in poverty and in single-parent families has been on the rise since 2005. In 2011, 17 percent of Iowa children were living in poverty, and nearly a third lived in single-parent families.

Second, Iowa has slipped to 15th in education, with only a third of our fourth-graders testing proficient in reading and a third of our eighth-graders testing proficient in math.

This year, we made investments that will help tackle those problems. We committed to boosting student achievement with an increase in funding for local schools for the next two years, smaller class sizes for young learners, and education reforms to raise standards, improve teaching and encourage innovation.

We are helping low-income families work their way out of poverty by increasing the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit from 7 percent to 15 percent of the federal credit. In addition, we invested in worker training and affordable college education so parents can get the skills they need to fill good-paying jobs at local businesses.

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If we Don’t give Daddy Young more school money or let his son get off a drunk driving charge, we are not being good stewards.

Here’s an interesting perspective. Drop all teachers pay to 35k a year, but offer any student who graduates a check commensurate with what their grade point is. So instead of paying the teachers to teach, let’s pay the students to learn. Since the present system isn’t working, might not hurt to try something new.

I guess giving teachers and administrators more money actually does not make them better at their job. Up goes the money, down goes the performance of our students! Again we see, just throwing money at something solves nothing!

Yea Liberty Boy, you tell em. 15th in the nation is absolutely terrible, especially when our population ranks us about 30th and teacher pay ranks about 26th in the nation. I think that is a pretty good return on our money. And, yes, we can do better.

Yea Bo, we used to be in the top 3 or 4 with a lot less money. This trend line would get us to the top 10 with only 75% of our tax money. To get to number 1 we may need to give the teachers and administrators 100% of our tax money. However I think the problem is NOT MONEY! That’s the set it and forget it solution. What we need is a comprehensive overhaul of our education system, top to bottom.

You might think that from what you write, that previously our 3rd or 4th was partially because of the value Iowa parents (and legislators) put on education. Other states began to realize that if they wanted to compete with Iowa, they were going to have to put more money into education. They have done so. And the results are in. Education, like any other privilege, takes time and money to acquire, It also takes a population who values education in more than just words. People need to volunteer to be reading buddies, they need to volunteer to coach sports, they need to volunteer to coach fine arts activities. These all help to better educate our young and they show those kids that people really do value education. Parents also need to read to their children and take an ACTIVE interest in their child’s education rather than just bitching about how much teachers are paid.

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