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Decline in school funding

February 23, 2018
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Letter to the Editor:

Decades ago, the one room schools across this nation brought our country

to literacy - a monumental and vital achievement and these were PUBLIC


Knowing what public schools have accomplished in the past, it is hard to witness how they are

being treated today.

First, they are being denigrated as to their work. People point to our students' standing compared to students' standing in other nations. However, it is not mentioned that, in other nations, young students are tested to determine whether they proceed into an academic school or a trade school. Therefore, when we compare our students' scores to those students' scores, we are comparing apples to oranges. In our public schools, we do not "select" - the doors are open to all from preschool to 12th grade.

Then it is claimed that the schools are "not doing their job" as if that is the total fault of the school. In reality, when the parents and the schools work together, children succeed. In a California study, it was found the most important factor in a child's success in school was parental support. Children from poor homes and even from homes that did not speak English succeeded in school if their parents worked with the school and motivated their children to see the importance of school. This factor overcame poverty and language barriers - it is a powerful force.

In addition to these criticisms, public schools are being threatened financially. That is particularly hard to witness in Iowa that once had the highest literacy rate and highest ACT scores in the nation.

In the last 10 years, our public schools have been underfunded. To stay even with costs, schools need a 3% increase each year. Now 1% has become common. Iowa is 35th in the nation in school funding and our per pupil spending is now $1612 below the national average. In order to accommodate this inadequacy, each district has made hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cuts. As for South Tama County, I cannot speak to the current situation, but in the too recent past, there was a need for two additional teachers in one building because class load for one was 130 students and 160 students for the other and a case of 6 preparations when 3 is considered average and can be more than enough. (Money for buildings is a separate fund and cannot be used to hire staff).

Schools struggle to operate within their declining state funds, and this struggle is more painful when one thinks about the $208 millions given to Apple in order to pay them to come to Iowa and provide 50 jobs. Governor Reynolds said the Apple acquisition puts Iowa on the map, but this sense of priorities does not help lowa"s school children.

Currently, the school choice movement will give more public education tax money to private entities, and the public schools simply should not have to continue to cut even more in orde rprovide money to fund private schools.

Of course, this entire scenario could be very acceptable to Iowa voters. The only way to tell is to see whom we elect as our governor, our representative, and our senator. And that, too, is a matter of choice.

Anne Michael




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