Governor Chet Culver told schoolboard members today that now is an “historic opportunity” to rethink how the state educates students in a time of limited funds. Culver, a Democrat, spoke to the annual meeting of the Iowa Association of School Boards in Des Moines. Talking to reporters after his speech, Culver says there has to be a change from the state to the local level.

Culver says the bottom line is the state does not have the financial resources they had even one year ago, so “we have to change the way that we look at funding our schools. We have to find efficiencies, we have to find cost savings, we have to perhaps use more technology.” Culver says he wants to go after “Race to the Top” federal funds — which would require changes to show the state is improving education.

Culver says he’s very interested in “turning around underperforming schools,” something he says has not been a real focus in Iowa. He says the U-S Education Secretary and President Obama both believe in turning around underperforming schools and he agrees with that. Culver was asked about the possibility of the state pushing for more school district consolidation, but he says that is an issue that should be left to local districts.

Culver says the local school boards, teachers and parents will ultimately make consolidation decisions that are in their best interest. “But certainly with reduced funds coming form the state, in some cases we will not have enough money to move the buses, literally,” Culver says. Culver says the state will have to take another look the way it funds school districts.

Culver says the reality is the legislature will have to look at things like the allowable growth school funding formula, and all the funding mechanisms. Culver says there is likely to be less money available to schools in the next fiscal year than there is this year. Culver said they funding approved to provide increased teacher salaries should stay in place.