Of Iowa’s 327 public school districts, 104 districts have an enrollment of 500 or fewer students, according to the Iowa Department of Education’s latest numbers, released in December. RELATED STORY: Iowa rural educators say ‘student first’ proposal undermines them
1. Adair-Casey Community School District: 252.6
2. Albert City-Truesdale Community School District: 92.0
Rural educators are bracing for the potential impact of the “student first scholarship” legislation that passed the Iowa Senate Wednesday night. The legislation, Senate File 2369, would allow students who choose to attend private school to use tax dollars to pay for tuition. Gov. Kim Reyolds proposes that 30 percent of Iowa’s per pupil funding for K-12 students who accept tax dollars to pay for private school go into a separate fund and be distributed equally to mostly rural districts with 500 or fewer students.
Iowa has 104 districts with 500 or fewer students, according to numbers from the Iowa Department of Education. There are 327 total public school districts in the state. Chris Coffelt, the shared superintendent of Central Decatur and Lamoni districts south of Des Moines, said his school districts are an example of why the plan isn’t gaining traction.
I’m confused, and I have a hunch I am not the only one. Are government mandates a bad thing — or are they good? My confusion comes because I hear what leaders in the Iowa Legislature and Gov. Kim Reynolds have said for months. It certainly seems as if, to a person, they agree mandates are bad. The governor often talks about how she believes Iowans will “do the right thing” when it comes to COVID vaccines and wearing masks.
Editor’s note: IowaWatch in a year-long investigation found that although each state is required to identify the bottom-scoring 5 percent of Title I schools every three years, it doesn’t mean these schools are “failing,” as some Iowa policymakers label them. Iowa’s 34 schools are on a “comprehensive” list. IowaWatch is featuring some of them. Less than a year into comprehensive designations, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools across the country in March 2020. This effectively pressed pause and added a fourth year to schools on comprehensive lists.
Editor’s note: IowaWatch in a year-long investigation found that although each state is required to identify the bottom-scoring 5 percent of Title I schools every three years, it doesn’t mean these schools are “failing,” as some Iowa policymakers label them. Iowa’s 34 schools are on a “comprehensive” list. IowaWatch is featuring some of them. Twenty different languages are spoken by Warren G. Harding Middle School students and their families. Connecting them with information takes the work of a team of bilingual family liaisons, success workers and other staff. “We think about how do we help our students with food, with clothing, with transportation.
How do educators at 34 Iowa schools feel about spending the past year hearing elected officials say they are running “failing schools”? Leaders at 13 schools explained the shortcomings of the metric that assigned them the “failing” label, as well as the unique challenges students and staff confronted — even before legislation introduced at the Statehouse singled them out as places where families could get state assistance to leave, they told IowaWatch. “Failing schools” is hyperbole for schools designated by the state as “comprehensive.” These are the Title I schools that score in the bottom 5 percent in the state based on students’ performance on the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress test, and/or for high schools, have a graduation rate below 67.1 percent. IowaWatch in a year-long investigation found that although each state is required to identify the bottom-scoring 5 percent of Title I schools every three years, it doesn’t mean these schools are “failing.”
A common misconception is that all schools are the same, said Jason Aker, principal of Baxter Elementary School in Baxter. “‘Thirty-four failing schools’ is a really crummy way of saying that, because the answer is simple; it’s the bottom 5 percent.
Typically, in the days leading up to the start of a new session of the Iowa Legislature, the attention is on lawmakers’ goals and priorities — and on the pledges they make to work together for the good of the people of Iowa. This year, however, Republican leaders who control the Iowa Senate announced a controversial decision that erases more than a century of openness — evicting journalists from the floor of the Senate chamber. This ill-conceived action makes Iowa an outlier among the legislatures in the 50 states. You could count on one hand those that do not allow journalists on the floor of their legislative chambers. Nowhere in their decision do Senate leaders pretend this change will better inform the people of Iowa about the important work the Senate does.
The Iowa Legislature’s “to do” list should be a little longer after last week. And people need to contact their senators and representatives in the Legislature to make sure they understand their duty is to protect the health and safety of Iowans. The reason? The Iowa Supreme Court handed down a decision Friday that will pretty much keep the public in the dark when a physician is charged by state regulators with professional misconduct. For decades, the Iowa Board of Medicine released the facts and legal basis for disciplinary charges the board filed against doctors. That basis might include a physician being impaired by alcohol or other drugs.
Do the folks in politics think we are asleep? Do they really believe no one is paying attention to what politicians are up to? It’s not surprising if you have acid indigestion these days. A few examples illustrate why I might need a tanker truck of Maalox. SENATE RACE.
The chambers of the Iowa Senate and the Iowa House of Representatives are silent after a busy 2021 session. Lawmakers teed up bills that addressed a wide assortment of problems, real or imagined. They decided against an increase in tax revenues for the three state universities. They took away authority of local governments to impose face-mask requirements to combat current or future diseases. They made significant changes in the process for creating charter schools, which will operate with state tax money but will not face many requirements public K-12 schools must follow.