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Hopes for a new school year

Most students are back to school around Iowa, and thousands of families are settling into a new seasonal cycle.

New pencils. New teachers. New buses. New friends. New bedtimes.

For anyone other than kindergarten parents, though, there’s a comforting familiarity about this time of year. Parents breathe a bit of a sigh. Kids are excited — in a good way. The weather cools. We start to cheer again for our favorite high school teams.

Pumpkin spice season will be here before you know it. School boards will begin to worry a little bit more about budgets. As caucus time gets a little closer, residents will hear from presidential candidates with claims to possess the acumen fix the national education system’s many woes.

So before this inevitable hand-wringing kicks into high gear, let’s take a moment of peace to think about what we want out of this next school year and how, perhaps, we might make things a tad better for our children.

Let’s start with transparency. To us, it seems the root of so many problems lies in misunderstandings. Teachers don’t always understand parents. The public doesn’t understand what the school board is doing. Communities are unsure what’s happening in their schools. Voters don’t understand what politicians are doing in the statehouses. So let this be said for all: Honesty is the best policy. Only when we can openly discuss the issues that face us can we all take part in finding solutions. And, please, let’s do it with civility.

That’s good advice for anyone, but especially to the new superintendents, school board members and other public employees doing such important work in our schools. Please, lead by example.

To our elected leaders in state government, we continue to hope they can set politics aside to focus on that task at hand: governing in the interest of the people, not the parties. In Illinois, educators will have the benefit of an additional $25 million on top of the $350 million annual boost built into the state’s budget last year. In Iowa, the state is spending about $89 million in new money, mostly through a 2% percent increase in general funding, but also through small increases to address inequities in per-pupil spending and transportation costs. Both of the latter are important to Quad-City schools, especially Davenport, where the district’s last superintendent was reprimanded when he intentionally overspent state caps to balance the inequities in the district. To our elected leaders, we hope this year’s debates focus less on price tags and more on policy –what we’re really doing in our schools to make things better.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t say a few words about safety. By now it should be no secret that guns are finding their way into our schools. In North Scott, a 12-year-old student pulled a gun on a teacher. In Dixon, Illinois, in 2018, a cop was heralded a hero when he gunned down a former student about to shoot up the school.

This is madness. Regardless of your views on the Second Amendment, we should all agree that firearms should be kept out of children’s hands and away from people seeking to cause mass death. A pattern is emerging: Shooters often make lists, talk about killing, visit extremist websites and amass arsenals. To everyone this year, please say something if you see something.

Finally, some words for the parents. Nurture your children. Get them to school. Teach them kindness and responsibility. Have some patience. Mostly, though, just love them. And be kind to the teachers; they have a knack for helping you figure out all the rest.

Good luck this year.

— Quad-City Times