Investing in schools keeps Iowans competitive

Iowa schools are crucial to a world-class education that prepares students for good jobs and strengthens our middle class.

Business leaders say Iowa’s shortage of skilled workers hurts their ability to grow and operate competitively. That means our state’s continued success depends on support for Iowa students and schools at all levels.

Other states have figured out that high-wage, high-skill economies are built on a foundation of great local schools, and they’ve committed to supporting those schools. While other states are investing more in student achievement, Iowa is failing to commit enough dollars to ensure each student’s success. On average, we invest $1,612 less per student than the national average. We are currently 35th in the nation.

The Legislature needs to increase its commitment to great schools, higher student achievement and increased teacher quality. Local parents, teachers and school administrators say our schools increasingly are forced to choose between providing a good education or just the bare minimum.

The problem has emerged as support for our local schools has become an increasingly partisan issue, and it could get worse. Gov. Branstad and the Iowa House have released their proposals for school funding for the next two years. Their proposals provide little support to help our schools keep up with inflation, let alone compete with other states.

A new survey of Iowa school superintendents reports that the Governor’s budget would send our schools in the wrong direction, resulting in fired teachers, overcrowded classrooms, outdated textbooks and fewer choices for Iowa students. In fact, almost all survey respondents said they oppose the governor’s plan to provide less than 1 percent in additional state aid to schools for the 2015-16 school year.

When asked what the impact would be on their students, 75 percent said they would increase class sizes, 74 percent said they would fire teachers, 71 percent said they would delay buying new classroom materials, and 70 percent said they would reduce course offerings.

School superintendents believe the Branstad budget would limit the opportunities of tens of thousands of Iowa students. Iowa is competing with the world for high-skill, high-wage jobs. That means great local schools have never been more important to our families and our state’s economic future.

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State Sen. Steve Sodders can be reached by calling the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise he can be reached at 641-751-4140 or via email: steve.sodders@legis.iowa.gov