As a mom of twins in sixth grade, I am passionate about supporting our schools and the amazing educators who work tirelessly to foster the growth of our kids. The last few years have been tough and it’s more important than ever that we focus on how we, as parents and community members, can be partners with our teachers and school staff to ensure all our kids have an excellent education and a safe environment in which to learn.
I am deeply concerned about the number of educators and administrators leaving the profession. Recruiting and retention starts with ensuring public education is valued. The Legislature must work on building a culture of trusted partnerships with school districts, teachers, and staff. An easy first step would be to stop introducing legislation that demonizes the profession or makes it harder for teachers to do their jobs. It’s also important to restore collective bargaining for public employees to restore balance at the negotiating table.
We must invest in our children and neighborhood schools by providing timely, adequate and equitable funding for public education. The Legislature must show that it truly values public education with funding that meets the cost of inflation, and allows school districts to pay competitive wages, bring down class sizes, have safe and secure buildings, and ensure districts can offer a world-class education to all students.
The Legislature also needs to take local control seriously. Locally elected school boards are often the best equipped to understand the needs of their unique communities. When the Legislature preempts or overrules their decision-making without a compelling state interest, it undermines the ability of districts to work in good faith with their teachers and staff.
School funding also needs to keep up with changing circumstances. I am proud to have focused on equity of funding during my previous term. I was one of four Iowa House members to serve on the School Funding Formula Review Committee in 2019. Because of that work, I wrote a bill to form a working group to study the impact of poverty on the school funding formula and make recommendations to the Legislature on how we can make funding more equitable within and across school districts. The bill, HF 2370, was passed with strong bi-partisan support out of the Education Committee. Unfortunately, due to COVID, we ran out of time to get it to the House floor for a vote. I look forward to continuing this work.
Our public schools are incredibly innovative and I am passionate about sharing those experiences. I have been fortunate to volunteer with our Ankeny Schools’ Orbis program doing mock interviews, speaking with students, and providing guidance on projects. I was pleased to invite students from Orbis to give a presentation to the House Education Committee on project-based learning back in 2020. It is my hope that by promoting the creativity of our local school districts, we can inspire change and facilitate partnerships across the state that provide more opportunities for students in every corner of Iowa.
Our commitment to public education doesn’t end at high school graduation. We also need to ensure that our regents universities and community colleges, like DMACC based here in Ankeny, have the resources they need to equip students with the education and skills needed in our ever-changing workforce.