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Editorial: Invest more in K-12 education

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JANUARY 29, 2015 5:00 AM

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Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is just a year away from being the longest serving governor in U.S. history. Over the course of his six terms, overspending hasn’t been a problem. Fiscal conservativism has been the administration’s method of operation since the governor took office in 1983. It’s one of the many reasons USA Today named Iowa as one of the top five “best-run” states in December 2014.

But what may be good for the budget statements at the end of the year, the box score of money spent versus money earned, doesn’t necessarily mean all has been accounted for.

Many of the cuts in public funding that the state government has made over the last decade affected educators and families alike.

On Tuesday, the Iowa House passed a 1.25 percent increase in K-12 public-school funding, an estimated increase of $48 million for the next academic year.

The Republican-controlled House hopes to reach a compromise with the Senate, in which a majority of Democrats called for the increased education budgets.

What may be viewed as bipartisan cooperation from Republicans, a 1.25 percent increase is very much a lowball proposal that does not even come close to fixing the problems the state currently has with education funding and academic achievement.

The Senate will likely reject the bid in favor of trying to approve a higher level of spending to ensure public schools are getting the appropriate funding to be successful.

Compared with the rest of the United States, Iowa’s public schools have fallen far behind.

The American Legislative Exchange Council publishes a comprehensive overview each year, titled “Report Card on American Education,” in which the researchers focus on school performance and achievement.

Where did the Hawkeye State finish last year? — 31st overall, receiving a C-minus grade with major deficiencies in both math and reading across the board. An F grade was also given to the state in the “Digital Learning” category and a D-plus average was given to the “State Academic Standards” category.

While many may dismiss these rankings as arbitrary numbers and grades that cannot accurately assess the value of education in a state, the truth is that Iowa does not invest enough in education as it could.

The latest report by the National Education Association shows that Iowa is worse than average in funding compared with the rest of the country. Iowa is 28th overall in percentage of revenue for public K-12 schools from state governments.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes that increases in public-school funding must be made above the 1.25 percent increase put forth by House Republicans. Larger class sizes, lack of resources, and the insufficient academic performance are all reasons for concern.  This is not to give educators a blank check, because we don’t want to trade quality education for financial insolvency.

But the development of Iowa children and ensuring long-term vitality of the state as a whole depends on planting the seed of education that has been malnourished for years, and we hope Iowa’s divided Legislature can reach a suitable compromise to reverse this trend.


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