During these contentious times of reduced public education funding, decimation of Iowa’s collective bargaining law and teacher-school board negotiations, I attended a Cedar Falls Community School District Board of Education meeting and encouraged the Superintendent, school board, parents and teachers to each “get on the other side of the table.” That is, before casting aspersions about each other at the bargaining table, gather as many facts from the other party’s perspective and then make a reasonable conclusion for the resolve.
Every Iowan has a vested taxpayer interest in public education. I commend citizens to “get on the other side of the table” and contemplate the following information as if YOU were a teacher, Superintendent and school board member and determine what you would do if you were at the bargaining table:
First, when Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat, was in office (2007-11), the allowable growth and supplemental state aid for school districts averaged 3.5 percent per year. When Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, came into office in 2011, his first year’s allowable growth for public schools was 0.0 percent. During the Branstad-Kim Reynold’s era (2011-18), the allowable growth has averaged 1.7 percent per year.
Secondly, the Republicans have had complete control of state government for the past 17 months and allowable growth for public schools has dropped even further below the 1.7 percent eight year average to 1.11 percent for this year’s public school budget and 1 percent for next year.
Third, a 3 percent increase per year of salaries is needed just for teachers to stay even with the increased cost of living (1 percent per year) and inflation (2 percent per year).
Fourth, most school districts are experiencing increased costs above the current allowable growth. For example, over the past five years, the Cedar Falls School District has observed a 37 percent increase for school transportation expenditures, 19 percent increase for building operational costs and the cost of employee insurance has increased 29 percent.
Fifth, every business, whether they are for-profit or not-for-profit, must have a cash reserve account to fall back on when the unexpected occurs (e.g., plumbing or heating problems, vehicle repairs, etc.). School districts can be gamblers and have a limited cash reserve account or they can be more conservative and maintain a 10-15-20-25 percent cash reserve to bail them out should a rainy day occur.
Sixth, in 1974, Gov. Robert D. Ray, a Republican, signed Iowa’s heralded collective bargaining bill, and it has operated exceedingly well for over four decades. However, Gov. Branstad and the Republican-controlled legislature dismantled collective bargaining in 2017. Today, teacher morale is exceedingly low in all of Iowa’s 333 school districts. Wages may be the only item on the bargaining table, casting aside discussion over health care, teacher’s work load, safety and environmental issues.
So, taxpayers, knowing the above information, what would you do if you were at the bargaining table as a school board member, superintendent or teacher? How would you allocate scarce resources to support teachers yet maintain sufficient funds for a rainy day?
The past eight year actions by Iowa’s Republican Party have put teachers, parents, taxpayers and every one of Iowa’s 333 public school district superintendents and school boards between a rock and a hard place. The GOP has created a “lose-lose” situation for every public school district.
There is one and only one resolve for the Republican-created public education debacle. On Tuesday, Nov. 6, voters must de-hire the legislators up for re-election who created this hostile public school environment. Iowans deserve a Governor and legislature who respects and values public education.
Steve Corbin is an emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa. Reach him at Steven.B.Corbin@gmail.com.