116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowans share a goal of having the best local schools in the nation.
However, eight years as an Iowa legislator has taught me that not everyone at the Statehouse is on board with that goal.
Sure, every legislator says they support Iowa’s local public schools…but way too many are voting against essential funding for those same schools.
Our state’s founders didn’t build great local schools just to show off. They did it so Iowa would be a place where people want to live, work, and raise a family.
The public school system they built attracted businesses and entrepreneurs to our state. In Iowa, they found the skilled workers and innovators needed to make dreams come true.
Today, many Iowa businesses can’t find the workers they need. Some of those businesses have invested in other states as a result. We need to invest in and maintain high-quality public schools so Iowa again becomes known as the place to find people who work smart as well as hard.
The few years have been tough on schools everywhere. Here in Iowa, the state’s failure to support local schools has been especially sharp. The average annual increase in state support for Iowa’s local schools has been less than 2 percent over the last six years. This is far below what Iowa invested in education back when many of us were students.
This year’s increase, in fact, is so small that 81 school districts won’t get a dollar more in state funding compared to last year.
The topper is the new push by statehouse politicians to take from our local schools and give to private schools through a voucher program. Iowa already provides some help to Iowa’s small number of private schools, but this voucher legislation goes far, far beyond that.
If private schools want more tax dollars, then they should accept every student, like the public schools do. And shouldn’t taxpayer funding come with the same oversight and budget rules that public schools follow? Why wouldn’t it?
Let’s get real. Iowa has nearly a half a million public school students. There are just 34,000 Iowa private school students. Sketchy ideas like vouchers need to wait until the State of Iowa has first met its responsibilities to public school students.
The education reform Iowa really needs must start with investing in our public schools, the schools that that almost all Iowa students attend. Instead of taking money out of public schools, we should make them better for all students by:
1. Reducing class sizes and making PreK classes a real, all-day option for working parents.
2. Recruiting more teachers and supporting them.
3 Increasing access to programs like career and technical education and STEM advanced opportunities.
Great public schools, located in communities across our state, built Iowa’s reputation for excellence in education. Instead of siphoning off millions to a relative handful of private schools, let’s invest in our local public schools and in our public school students.
Democratic State Sen. Kevin Kinney operates his family’s century farm near Oxford. He is a retired Lieutenant in the Investigations Division of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and served three terms on the Clear Creek Amana School Board.