It seems education “reform” is on its way to the governor.
So, can we call this a good first step?
Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mt. Ayr, wouldn’t even concede that the bill represented a step forward. Rather, he said during the closing debate on the House floor, it was more like the uncertain tottering of a child standing up for the first time, still too afraid to take a step.
OK, well, at least it’s still bold, right?
Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, the other conference committee co-chairman, praised the panel for finding “appropriate” compromises. He declined to speculate whether it would meet Branstad’s standard for “bold” reform, telling reporters: “I don’t like the word bold. That implies a certain macho swagger. I would prefer to do smart and effective reform and I think that is what this is.”
Huh. Not a step, but a stagger. Not bold, and no swagger. Got it.
Well, it’s not a total loss. There must at least be some additional funding next year for the bill’s new third grade literacy requirements. Right?
The program — contingent on funding by the state — would not be implemented until the end of the 2016-17 school year and would apply to students entering kindergarten in the 2013-14 school year.
“I think that’s a good compromise and it puts the onus back on the parent a little bit to make sure that they’re involved in their child’s education,” Chambers said.
Quirmbach said he was disappointed there was not adequate funding in the bill to fund early literacy support in fiscal 2013, making overall funding for education reform a major focus of the Legislature next year.
The standings appropriations bill this year includes $2 million for the reform effort — a level far short of the $17 million Branstad requested.
So no funding next school year. And $17 million is now $2 million.
Also, lawmakers axed an attempt to boost K-12 school aid by 4 percent next fall, up from the planned 2 percent.
So while the golden dome brain trust goes back to the drawing board to craft a set of a brand new big ideas that won’t pass, school districts are expected to continue circling the airport, running on fumes. No worries, we’ll gas you up when we’re through tinkering with our grand plans. Until then, it’s all up in the air.
Please hold. You’re kids are very important to us.
I’m certainly in favor of transforming education, although I have serious doubts that the Statehouse is capable of doing it. Change is needed. But the notion that districts can keep operating on low-ball funding while this glacially takes shape is a strategy decoupled from reality. Sure, the 2 percent increase in school aid for this fall sounds totally reasonable, until you realize most schools are dealing with shrinking enrollment and rising costs. Last year, it was zero. Before that, cuts.
That state funding picture clearly played a role in the closure of Polk Elementary here in Cedar Rapids, so this is not without consequence. We lost a quality school in the name of “stabilizing general fund reserves.” Meanwhile. the state’s sitting on record reserves. Seems like more could have been done for schools while they watch our leaders stagger non-boldly toward reform.
Comments are closed.