Iowa’s Governor held the first in a series of public forums on education last night (Tuesday) in Jefferson. Governor Vilsack told the gathering of Greene County residents that Iowa’s school districts need and deserve more money from the state. Vilsack says “Our educators, our principals, our superintendents, our school boards have done a pretty good job of dealing with tough times, but we cannot continue to ask them to do that job. We must be better partners with them.” Vilsack says he would like the state’s education efforts to begin at birth. The Governor says “These youngster’s first and best teacher will in fact and should in fact be their parents. Making sure the parents have the information they need to succeed; that involves home visitations, that involves providing information immediately at the hospital.” Vilsack said he wants to start funding early childhood programs starting next year. He told the forum the state’s smallest school districts are some of the most successful, although he says educators need to find ways to give students in small districts the same opportunities larger districts offer. Vilsack says “Now some have suggested that we’re advocating the closing of small schools. That is not what we’re advocating. We are advocating an expansion of learning opportunities which may require new relationships between schools of different sizes.” Vilsack says his belief in the need for more work on education was strengthened by his trip to Europe last week. “The competition is not the school district next door, it’s not the school district a couple of towns away from here. It’s not even the school districts in other states that border Iowa. The competition we face and that our young people face is literally all over the world.” Governor Vilsack will hold six more public meetings between now and mid-December. (11/18 Cedar Rapids Prairie HS; 11/22 Indian Hills Community College, Ottumwa; 12/1 Mississippi Bend AEA, Bettendorf; 12/7 Grand River Center, Davenport; 12/8 Sioux Center HS; 12/9 Freemont-Mills HS).