Despite frigid temperatures, over a thousand people gathered on the steps of the statehouse last night to call for more state aid for public schools. Brad Hudson of the Iowa State Education Association — the teachers’ union — says Iowa’s world class education system is on the decline because of budget cuts.Hudson says “it’s a cold day in Iowa when we have to come to this building and say to our elected leaders: “Shame on you.'” He says they remember the campaign literature and ads that said education is the top priority.Governor Tom Vilsack urged the teachers, school board members, parents and students in the crowd to talk with legislators who’re reluctant to raise taxes in order to spend more on schools. He says this is the beginning of a great campaign to reengage people in their democracy and their government so that their voice, and not the voice of special interests are heard. Vilsack told the crowd state economic development efforts would stall if the quality of Iowa’s education system declines. Vilsack said “if we underfund education, force additional layoffs, larger class sizes, fewer supplies, and less technology, shame on us.” Sharon Miller of Waterloo was there. Miller says they want fair funding for education as she says “there’s nothing left to cut” and without adequate funding, schools will be “doing less with less.” Elizabeth Curl, a member of the school board for the MidPrairie district, says education should be the state’s number one priority. Curl says without a more significant boost in state aid, her district may have to “get rid of some teachers” and that’ll mean larger class sizes. Nancy Brown of Oskaloosa works at the Southern Prairie A-E-A in Ottumwa, and she hopes the size of the crowd sends a message to legislators. She says they hope the legislators will take not that the public really cares.Barb Mullahey, a principal in Des Moines, braved the cold to stand and chant for more state tax money for schools. Mullahey says she’s afraid the quality of Iowa schools “will go down the tubes” if more money isn’t found. The crowd repeatedly chanted “six percent” — referring to the six percent increase in general state aid groups like the Iowa State Education Association and the Iowa Association of Schools Boards are seeking from lawmakers.
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