The 85th General Assembly is under way. This year our legislators are expected to tackle the following educational issues: school funding, implementing a new teacher and administrator evaluation and compensation system, mandating specific statewide testing, and bullying. Two issues I would like to have you contact our legislators about are school funding and the creation of the new statewide testing.
The state of Iowa is projecting a surplus of $900 million by the end of this fiscal year. Recently, Iowa's school funding has been dismal - in fact, Iowa currently ranks 37th out of 50 states in per-pupil spending. Very few states are as economically healthy as Iowa, yet our spending on PK-12 education is $1,514 below the national average. Our legislators will tell you they spend the majority of the state budget on education, which is true. The needs of the students however, have changed drastically over the past few years. The state has not provided the funds needed to address those needs. North Tama has been negatively impacted by the low funding which has forced us to reduce staff, delay textbook purchases, and delay or eliminate purchasing some educational equipment.
The other issue I see is the development of the new statewide testing system. If done correctly, I support this new development. However, if the state haphazardly develops exit exams for grades 3, 8, and 12, this could have a negative impact on our students. For example, the state is close to passing a mandate where 3rd grade students must be reading at a certain level or they will not be allowed to move on to 4th grade. If this happens, there must be an alternative for the struggling 3rd grade readers. Struggling students should have the opportunity to attend and successfully complete a summer school program.
If we are to continue to "Move North Tama from a good school to a great school," we must help our legislators tackle these two issues.