Mark Bussell of Marion has a child who’ll be attending kindergarten in the fall and he calls the GOP’s plan “dismal.”
“The proposed budget increase of 1.11 percent is not in the best interests of our students,” Bussell says. “…Does this budget make the grade? No. It seems obvious that our educators and our students will suffer because of these actions taken by our state legislature.”
The public hearing lasted 90 minutes. There was only one person who spoke in favor of the school spending level agreed upon by Republicans. Drew Klein, the state director of Americans for Prosperity, cited a study indicating more money has been spent on Iowa schools over the past 40 years, but student performance hasn’t improved.
“I agree that the legislature should make education a top priority, but don’t shortchange your constituents by believing that you can deliver on your campaign promises by pouring money into a system that clearly isn’t meeting the needs of every student and certainly isn’t giving our kids a shot at a fulfilled and successful life.”
Cedar Rapids School Board member Gary Anhalt told legislators the spending plan will lead to larger class sizes and reduced course offerings.
“At $40 million, we will only be spending about 50 cents per day, per student — actually far less than a cup of coffee,” Anhalt said. “And you claim that education is your priority?”
Tammy Wawro is president of the Iowa State Education Association, the union for more than 34,000 Iowa teachers. She blasted Republicans for scheduling the public hearing at 11 a.m. on a Monday, preventing teachers from attending.
“They’re doing what they should be doing at this hour of the day,” Wawro said. “Now please do what you should be doing, which is to make our students a higher priority.”
Bob Olson, superintendent of Clarion Goldfield Dows Schools, is chairman of Rural School Advocates of Iowa.
“An increase of 1.11 percent…is not sufficient to fund the demands of school districts without further cutting staff and programs for students,” Olson said.
Jerry Tormey is a former member of the Urbandale School Board.
“This is a crime, what’s happening to education in Iowa right now. We all need to wake up. This is a serious, serious issue,” Tormey said. “Every parent needs to be involved in this. The cuts are awful.”
David Wilkerson retired last year after a dozen years as superintendent in Waukee, the state’s fastest growing district. He told legislators he’s a “lifelong Republican” who’s upset with the GOP plan.
“We ask more today of our teachers and our staff today than we have ever asked and then we throw 1.1 percent at them,” Wilkerson said. “…The very people we’re asking to elevate our education system are the very ones who feel like they’re getting kicked in the hind end.”
Republicans say with lower-than-expected state tax revenue, the state cannot afford more than $40 million extra for the state’s public school districts. Republicans in the Iowa Senate endorsed that level of funding last Thursday. The Iowa House is expected to debate the plan sometime today or tonight.