From Rep. Todd Prichard –
This week, like many other weeks, education is on my mind. As a lifelong Iowan (with the exception of a few years spent in the army), I am simply shocked with the amount of controversy that surrounds the issue of education funding in our statehouse. Truth be told, when I first arrived to the Iowa House of Representatives, I was not prepared or expecting to witness so much controversy surrounding the issue of education. I suppose like many Iowans, I took it for granted that education was a valued cornerstone of our state’s society and culture. After all, over the decades of my life, Iowa’s education system has led the nation in student performance by many measures. Iowans value education so greatly that we have a depiction of a one-room schoolhouse on the back of our state’s quarter.
With this background, let us turn our focus to the current debate in the Iowa Legislature regarding school funding. On one side, the Governor and company, is pushing for allowable growth or supplemental state aid at $ 6,446 per pupil. The other side (the side I stand on) is advocating for $ 6,621 per pupil state aid—a dollar difference of $175 per pupil. This difference may not sound like much, however, the practical consequences for school districts across and state and especially for rural districts like ours can’t be overstated. This funding is critical. For example, for the Charles City school district the effect is a $269,902 drop in budget. This means the larger class sizes, fewer teachers, cuts in programs and extracurricular activities as well as potential increased property tax.
Furthermore, to add insult to injury, the other side of this issue wants to change the rules the legislature is required to play by in regards to when these funding levels must be set. Current law requires and mandates that school funding be set a year in advance and as a stand-alone bill. The purpose of this law is based on the priority Iowans have historically given to education funding: fund education first and balance the budget from there. Now, this too is changing. The current proposal is to let school funding be set much later, thus giving no time to plan local budgets and throw education into the mix with the rest of budget.
If you have read this article to this point, I hope it is clear to you where I stand on school funding. I would also expect that if you were concerned and interested in what I am writing you would agree: education needs to be the top priority for the State of Iowa if we hope to continue to move our economy forward as the sophisticated economy it has become. Personally, my wife Ann and I chose to stay in Iowa and raise our children here in large part because of Iowa’s commitment to quality education. Please don’t think things will just work out and the right thing will be done without your voice in this current debate. Quite seriously, the future of the state hangs in the balance. Make you voice heard with those in the legislature and Governor’s office.