Chronicle Editorial

Dominoes

     There are many aspects of Iowa education that could be debated, from methods of school funding, to who should actually supply funding, to best practices of academic success. But what can’t be argued is the fact that the last several decades have shown the priority education is to our legislators.

     This week, The Chronicle reported a session with Shared Superintendent of Hampton-Dumont and CAL Todd Lettow, in which he gave a forecast on state funding to education, and the predicament it will be putting school districts in, at its current pace.

     At a 1.11 percent average increase to education funding, the state legislature boasted a $40 million increase to public schools. The consensus was that “fiscal responsibility” forced the decision, and that $40 million was still a large some of money to the public school system. Single percentage increases below five percent have been a staple of legislature increases, as schools grapple with ever-rising costs of education, technology and transportation.

     The time for the legislature to rethink public education funding is now. As taxpayers of state, county, local, sales and property taxes, the citizens of Iowa are being exploited under the guise of “fiscal responsibility.”

     Public education is a guaranteed right to any child in the U.S., paid for by the American taxpayer. Within the last five years, with inflated talk of budget controls, and the debate of spending problems vs. revenue problems, lawmakers have been siphoning money from the education system to fund the rest of the state.

     With platforms of “fiscal responsibility,” the legislators believe that they are making cuts, the way any other family or business would. However, while they say “fiscal responsibility,” they really mean “taxpayer responsibility.” Because while the taxpayer pays their annual tax, with property taxes going to the school board, some taxes going to the county, and some taxes going to the state — for education spending — the state is misappropriating those taxpayer dollars.

     Money that comes out of a citizen’s pocket for the sake of education is being used elsewhere, while the school in that taxpayer’s town forgoes those dollars, and forces those same taxpayers to pay for property tax increases to make up the difference; that’s double the taxes for the same cause.

     State and local budgets are different from federal budgets. States have to make ends meet, and need to make tough decisions on how to do it. Likewise, within any system there is waste. With operational sharing dollars that allow schools to share up to 21 administrative positions, schools are becoming more efficient. They are becoming more streamlined, and staffs are figuring out quicker and more effective ways to measure and increase academic growth. Being fiscally responsible forces bad practices out of use. Maybe there is still waste in some systems. Maybe schools don’t necessarily need high-tech classrooms. Being fiscally responsible for efficiency is different than being fiscally responsible for cost, however.

     In our coverage area, we have seen what decreasing state funding has done to our school districts. First it was Dumont, now it’s CAL, with whole grade sharing in the works for next fall. As stated by Lettow in the financial figures in this issue, Hampton-Dumont will be in the negative when it comes to new revenue, next year, all things equal.

     While whole grade sharing will offset the burden, how long will that last? How long before funding levels force CAL to lose more money? How long before H-D needs to start pulling back its educational standards?

     According to 2015 results of the Program for International Student Assessment, the US is ranked 40 in Math, 24 in reading and 25 in science. Being fiscally responsible it responsible, but when the economy and our political institutions rely on the fruits of high quality education, continuously keeping funding rates down does no one justice.

     Raise your voice. Tell your legislators that education should not be on the chopping block, and taxpayers should not be contributing double for something the state is obliged to pay. If education is a state right, it should be treated as such.