In the course of my years in this business, I’ve attended countless meetings of city councils, boards of supervisors, school boards and countless other organizations and groups. To be honest, I even sit on a couple of organizations that meet regularly, so one could say I sit on both sides of the table.
Over time, I’ve seen lots of leaders and groups struggle to understand financing, budgeting and related subjects; I’ve sat through countless meetings where financial wizards (you know, people who can balance a checkbook, only with lots of zeroes) project out for 20 years the amount of interest and principal payments and such to a board or group looking to complete a project. Now if you notice, I used the word “struggle” previously to describe what happens for some groups as they work on funding and budgeting.
I can recall over this past winter when Emmetsburg’s School Board was working on the budget for the upcoming year, and Superintendent Gary Richardson was discussing the dilemma he faced in preparing a budget for the district. At that time, the Iowa Legislature had not set the school aid funding for the coming year, leaving Richardson, like his fellow school superintendents, guessing at what level of funding they should build into their budgets for the coming year.
Richardson, to his credit, decided to play it safe, and figured his budget with zero percent funding from the state. Other districts followed “the word from Des?Moines” and set budgets with two percent funding, only to eventually be disappointed when the Legislature finally set the funding level just over one percent right before it adjourned this Spring.
But, to their credit, the state’s lawmakers had approved a bill for one-time supplemental funding for schools, and unless you’ve been out in the igloo the last 10 days, you know what happened to that idea. Our Governor, who champions the ideas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, vetoed the one-time special funding bill to schools.
Naturally, school districts are less than pleased, to put it mildly. Teachers are not only unhappy, but many are wondering what they’ve done to incur the wrath of the Governor, who claims to support education, yet vetoes funding to help keep Iowa’s schools at a high level.
Sure, the governor has his reasons, whatever they may be, but the general perception is that education apparently isn’t as important as the state makes it out to be. But, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, when you think about the push to comply with the Iowa Core requirements and federal proficiency standards that in some cases appear to be unattainable despite all the best efforts.
It just seems that such a mixed message to our educators and schools would create a lot of uncertainty as a new school year approaches in a little over a month. Will our state lawmakers drag their feet once again in setting school aid, which our state law requires them to do before Thanksgiving, not five months later.
In the meantime, a lot of teachers and school administrators are having trouble understanding our Governor and his logic. But in the end, the losers in this deal are the kids.