I have been talking about how funding of public education in Iowa is woefully inadequate and that this is particularly disheartening as Iowa at one time was able to brag about being number one in education and even placed an old one room school house with the caption "Foundation in Education" on the back of its state quarter.
What makes the situation particularly difficult in Iowa is the compounding effect of modest state aid year after year with State Supplemental Aid (SSA) averaging 1.9 percent over the last six years and closer to one percent for the last couple of years.
That level of funding obviously does not cover increases in operational costs and forces our schools to reduce staff, reduce programs, increase class size, etc. How can we tolerate this? Should we "recall" our state quarters because education is no longer a priority here? Last week I pointed out that students in many states and nations are now out-performing Iowa's children. Shame on us.
Where is our collective outrage?
And we tolerate some of our state legislators including Mr. Gassman bragging that this year we invested record amounts in our schools.
In a letter soliciting campaign contributions, Gassman said, "We've invested in our priorities and that mean's record amounts for our children's schools" and while technically correct that a one percent funding increase took educational expenditures to "record levels," the reality is a one percent increase does not even come close to covering increases in operating expenses let alone allow us to begin taking steps to make us all proud again.
Mr. Gassman's letter suggests he views public education as a priority but his actions and voting record suggest something far different. And, yes, if we get our priorities straight, we can afford it. Spending on business tax credits has increased 267 percent since 2007. Let's pull back on some of these credits so more money is available to allocate to Iowa's most valuable asset, its young people and their education.
For the sake of our children and grandchildren we can and must move in another direction. One step would be to retire Representative Gassman and to elect Deb Jensen, a strong advocate for public education, to replace him.
Like Gassman, I am a Republican, but digging out of this public education black hole is far more important to me than my party affiliation.