116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Being a daily Iowa Public Radio listener, I followed the scuffle over universal preschool last spring in Des Moines. If the state truly can't afford free preschool for every 4-year-old, it should be available for all and free to those in need (including struggling middle-class families).
One approach might be for families above a determined income to pay a sliding fee. The level Gov. Terry Branstad spoke of - family of four at $66,000 income, asked to pay $133 a month - is unreasonable. The income threshold must be higher to ensure access for all children. The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) is a great source on the benefits of universal preschool education. Benefits include higher graduation rates, reduced special education, more children advancing to college and better jobs, advances in language, literacy and math, lower teen pregnancy, and lower crime rates. A wealth of research has repeatedly confirmed the benefits outweigh the cost.
In essence, it's a case of buy now or pay later.
Regarding the state's coming blueprint for education reform, according to Linda Fandel, Special Assistant for Education to the governor, the draft recommendations will focus on the three key areas addressed at the Iowa Education Summit: “getting a great teacher in every classroom, a great principal in every building, and providing the support they need to do their jobs well; raising academic standards and putting in place strong matching assessments; and innovation that boosts learning.”
My impression of teacher/administrator Education Summit response was that the governor and his team lost them at the word go. The governor began with a shameful rebuke of Iowa teachers and decapitated his opportunity to cooperatively work on the blueprint. When considering changes like a merit-pay component for teachers, if the teachers do not have a substantial part in developing it, they will not buy in to the effort. The blueprint should emphasize how to cooperatively improve the system, specific details for how (not just goal setting), and what we will try to improve, i.e., not just test scores but critical thinking and interpersonal skills.
All districts will make cuts under Iowa K-12 no-growth funding. Slashing programs and teachers shouldn't be the first or only approach. Where are we losing money?
We especially need to address the exodus of students open enrolling out of the Iowa City district. The 2010-11 Enrollment Report states, “In 2010-11, the number of students who chose to open enroll into the ICCSD decreased by 18 (4.9 percent) from the previous year while the number of students open enrolling out increased by 44 students (12.4 percent). The net loss (215 students) in 2010-11 is the highest since at least 1998-99.”
We need to consider school-specific specialized programming as determined by open, public process including teacher and community input so our schools draw students by choice instead of ineffective strong-arm redistricting. With the unique educational and business resources we have, students should be knocking down our doors to get in, not out.
Julie Van Dyke, of Iowa City and a West High graduate, is experienced in computer, software and human relations, with 2.5 years in the University of Iowa Unified Program. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
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