Like all Iowans, we are grief-stricken by the tragic shooting at Perry High School. We are hopeful that our elected leaders will gather this session and discuss real solutions, which include additional public school resources and access to counselors, psychologists, and social workers, resources to educate students about online safety, protect against cyberbullying and harassment, and programs that focus on promoting healthy habits through education and substance abuse prevention. Additionally, a system that continues to need support is the Area Education Agencies, which, along with the incredible school staff and law enforcement, jumped into action to help with grief and counseling services.
Our public schools need more resources to help foster positive and inclusive school climates – they don’t need weapons and fewer education professionals in the buildings.
Iowa educators and their students have been asked to do more with less for so long it has drained them. They are asked day in and day out to walk into buildings, protect, and promote, sometimes under the cloud of a possible violent act, without the tools they need to succeed.
Our ask this year for the Iowa Legislature and Governor Reynolds is simple: follow up on your promises and stay away from hyper-partisan politics disrespecting Iowa’s public education professionals and the students in their care.
We ask Governor Reynolds and legislators to see our public schools, the students who attend them, and the public employees who serve in them as the community treasures they are. To understand that river to river, Iowa’s public schools are the heart and soul of every city, town, suburb, and rural area. They are where communities come together for Friday night football, show choir, marching bands, track and field, musicals, and prom. Public schools bring friends and families together, highlight our best, and sometimes we suffer together during the worst. Our public schools, students, and the education professionals working in school buildings throughout our state deserve more than lip service and fake promises. They deserve action that supports them and helps them to grow and thrive.
Too many times, Governor Reynolds and legislators talk about supporting public schools, but their actions tell a different story. Last year, they passed a law to provide more than one billion dollars to private schools over the next three years. Imagine how a one billion dollar increase in public school funding would help the public schools where more than 90 percent of Iowa’s students attend. Public schools have not seen substantial increases in general funding to keep up with inflation for more than ten years.
She signed a law punishing teachers, school librarians, and counselors if they do not remove certain books from their classrooms, shelves, and offices. Recently, that portion of the law was stopped from being enforced when a federal judge ruled it so vague it violates Constitutional Rights.
Tonight, Governor Reynolds spoke about raising educators' salaries. This is long overdue. We are optimistic that this promise will turn into action for all of the employees in our public schools, some of whom work with the most vulnerable students – and are still only making just $9 per hour. We hope this is not an empty campaign promise but will genuinely mean that she values recruiting and retaining public educators, community college instructors, and the professionals serving in our Area Education Agencies.
It is past time for action over words. It is time for elected officials to put their money where their mouth is and protect and promote Iowa’s public students and all the education professionals who serve them.
We remain ready to assist the governor and legislators in taking positive action.
The ISEA represents preK-12 educators, education support professionals, community college faculty, Area Education Agency professionals, retired educators, and aspiring educators with contracts covering more than 50,000 employees. We promote quality public education by placing students at the center of everything we do while advocating for education professionals.