From Iowa Senate President Pam Bochum –
Iowa’s high school graduation rate is the highest in the country. More than 90 percent of Iowa high school students graduate within four years, compared to a national graduation rate of 81 percent.
Iowa’s four-year graduation rate has climbed statewide for the fourth year in a row while dropout rates continue to fall, according to the Iowa Department of Education. Graduation rates increased for almost all subgroups of students, including those whose first language is not English (7.4 percent increase), students with disabilities (3.6 percent increase), students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (3.6 percent increase), and Hispanic students (2.2 percent increase).
Higher graduation rates are great, but Iowa must ensure that when our students graduate, they are well prepared for 21st Century jobs, higher education and worker training. After all, our graduates will be competing with students from across the country and world.
That is why investing in our students and schools are a priority for Senate Democrats. Iowa is already more than $1,600 below the national average in annual per-pupil investment. The result is that student achievement in other states is increasing faster than in Iowa.
Earlier this session, Senate Democrats approved a 4 percent increase in basic funding, but House Republicans voted for a much smaller 1.25 percent increase for our schools. The Republican proposal is not enough to keep up with rising costs, let alone allow our students to compete with other states.
Last week, Senate Democrats offered a compromise proposal to increase basic school funding next school year by 2.625 percent, exactly halfway between the Senate and House proposals. Unfortunately, Republicans refused to budge, despite widespread reports that a meager 1.25 percent increase would result in more crowded classrooms, limited course offerings, fewer extracurricular activities, and higher property taxes.
Iowa students are eager to achieve. The legislature must ensure that when they graduate, they are ready for jobs, education and training that await them. We must do the right thing for Iowa’s future by investing in our students and schools.