116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
There has been discussion at the state level about expanding funding of preschool so that all 4-year-olds can attend free. There are many private preschools in Iowa (with facilities and staff certified by the state) that have been operating for many years. The fact that these preschools have students indicates that parents are willing to pay for these programs.
I agree there are families for whom preschool tuition would be a hardship and we should continue to offer early childhood educational opportunities to children in these families. However, let's not use state funding to provide preschool for children whose families are willing and able to pay for such programs.
It is important to remember that when a choice is made to fund one program, funding to another program will be cut. Instead of providing free preschool to children whose parents are capable of paying for this service, let's use that money for K-12 educational programs.
There is much speculation about what will be included in Gov. Terry Branstad's blueprint for education reform set to be released by Oct. 1. Here are some things I hope the plan includes or doesn't include:
l Having a great teacher in every classroom and a great principal in every building is a worthy goal. Let's provide the resources to allow this to happen. A good start would be to increase support for teachers and principals, particularly in the area of professional development. I would also like to see increased compensation overall. I hope the plan steers clear of any system which would compensate teachers based solely on the standardized test scores of their students. Having standards for our teachers is appropriate, but evaluation and assessment need to be based on comprehensive measures.
l To maintain (or regain) the level of education Iowa had been known for, we need to explore innovative methods of teaching and learning. Our world looks much different from 50 years ago, yet our educational system today is not much different. Our society has become increasingly technological. Our students need access to relevant technology to prepare them to meet the challenges of the 21st century. We also need to be willing to expand partnerships with non-profit organizations and businesses and be open to exploring options such as vocational centers, and foreign language, arts and magnet schools.
l As we approach education reform, it is appropriate to set clear and high standards for Iowa students. At the same time, I hope the governor's plan avoids the assessment of proficiency by standardized test scores alone.
Closer to home, I would like to see the school board make long-term planning a priority. A 10-year plan should be developed in the areas of curriculum, staffing, facilities and finance. Having such a plan would allow the board to be proactive instead of reactive. Developing a plan will help the board use the amazing human, physical and financial resources available in this district to their fullest potential. Long-term plans need to be evaluated and modified as circumstances change, but having such a plan provides focus and helps in setting priorities.
Sally Hoelscher, of Iowa City, is a freelance writer, with a Ph.D in pharmacology from the University of Iowa, and has also worked in children's ministry, with extensive experience as a parent, school volunteer and educator. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
Opinion content represents the viewpoint of the author or The Gazette editorial board. You can join the conversation by submitting a letter to the editor or guest column or by suggesting a topic for an editorial to email@example.com