Connie Boesen: Times Aren’t Tough, Why the Hit to Schools?
“Currently our state is not experiencing tough economic times, which makes it difficult for me to understand why there is a stalemate on funding public schools.” So notes long-time school board member Connie Boesen in a guest editorial in this morning’s Des Moines Register.
She notes how the minimal increase in education funding proposed by the Governor and some legislators will eventually mean major cuts to schools, and concludes “[e]ducation should not be a political issue but a moral issue of providing all children with great educational opportunities.”
Below is the entire column as published in the April 4, 2015 Register:
I have served for 12 years on the Des Moines School Board and have lived through tough budget years. We all understand when you need to make hard choices on spending. Currently our state is not experiencing tough economic times, which makes it difficult for me to understand why there is a stalemate on funding public schools.
We all talk about the greatness of the days when Iowa was one of the top-ranked states in education; maybe we should look at why. We had a homogeneous population, we spent more per student in aid compared with other states and we also spent more of the total state and local budgets on education than we do now. We have more children coming to our schools with challenging needs. The Des Moines District has 72 percent of our students receiving free and reduced lunch; we have over 6,300 out of 32,000 that are English Language Learners. Iowa has not allocated the dollars to keep up with the change.
We are quickly approaching April 15, the time we have to certify our budgets. School districts should not have to spend time being card readers and putting together many funding scenarios. The budget proposal of 1.25 percent will not cover the basic costs of running a school district, let alone try to establish programs to meet the increased needs of our students we serve today.
If Iowa continues down this path of low funding for our schools, this is what we know: We will have fewer teachers, coaches and other adults that can connect with students. We will have fewer course offerings. We will have larger class sizes with less personal attention for each student. We will have fewer opportunities for students to connect with extracurricular activities and the fine arts that excite them to succeed in school.
We are elected to the school board just as the Legislature is elected with responsibilities, rules and timelines to follow. It is disappointing that we are now over a year late in establishing the school funding for the upcoming school year of 2015-2016. Education should not be a political issue but a moral issue of providing all children with great educational opportunities.