The director of the Iowa Department of Education says state spending per pupil remains below the national average and below the states on Iowa’s borders. Judy Jeffrey outlined the disparity in her annual “Condition of Education” report to the State Board of Education today (Wednesday).
Jeffrey says the spending per student is about 71-hundred dollars in Iowa, Minnesota almost nine-thousand dollars per student and Wisconsin spends almost 95-hundred dollars per student. Jeffrey says the demographics of the three states are pretty similar, but the other states are “investing more in the education of their students.” Jeffrey says the national average per-pupil spending is about 81-hundred dollars.
Jeffrey says there are things to cheer about, as the high school graduation rates for Hispanic and African American students have gone up. She says the percentage for Hispanic students has increased over six percent, and the graduation rate for African American students has gone up just over five percent since 2002. Jeffrey says Iowa continues to score above the national average on advanced placement and college entrance exams, but does score below Minnesota and Wisconsin, which spend more per-pupil.
Jeffrey says while it’s hard to draw a direct correlation between the amount spent on students and student achievement, research shows that struggling students require more time and resources. Jeffrey says the state continues to be challenged by the number of students who come from families that require free and reduce priced lunch, and they continue to server more children who don’t speak English as their first language.
Jeffrey says there’s also the challenge of small districts that don’t provide all the kinds of advanced opportunities the state wants for its students. Jeffrey says while the number of schools offering advanced placement courses is up 20-percent — too few of those schools are in rural areas of the state. Jeffrey says the districts are going to have to work to continue improving opportunities for students.
Jeffrey says, “We may need to look at very creative solutions here for our children. Because..you don’t want them to not have the advantages that students have in a large metropolitan area because they happen to live close to the southern border in Iowa. That’s not fair to our children.”
Jeffrey says more school consolidation may be one of the answers. Jeffrey says in some cases consolidation might be the right answer, but in others you have to ask how long you want students on school buses. Jeffrey says the education department will ask for more money to provide additional incentives for communities to talk about “what’s right for their children.”