Iowa Press; 1424; Education
A. A. Major funding for this program was provided by friends of Iowa Public Television. It is one of the most volatile issues facing government. School districts and parents the issue is quality education. There's an old saying that when the school boards a community of Hmong people worry about it. Tonight a look at education in Iowa. This is the Sunday March 22nd edition of I will promise. Here is Dean Bourne. Good evening. Earlier this month fifteen hundred Iowans rallied at the Iowa state capital demanding changes in laws governing home and church schools. And over the years many other Iowans have taken legal action that would allow their children to attend public schools
outside their own school districts because they thought another school offered a better education. You know education is one of the more controversial issues facing government parents and school districts today. Indeed as Wayne Bruin's reports the fight for quality education can and has divided entire communities. Buffalo Center and Lakota are not unlike many small Iowa town. Their proximity has created many close relationships between businesses and families but mention education and you'll find the battle lines firmly drawn. The problem centers around the Lakota school district and Roma there stands at ninety nine students making it Iowa's smallest school. For years parents have complained that Lakota was too small and was not providing their children with an adequate education. But opponents claim the Coda was a good school and provided more personal attention. Like the hundreds of small schools across Iowa face was shrinking enrollment residents feared that reorganization would result in a
loss of community identity. Longer bus rides and most important the loss of one of their major employers. None of us want to change what we're used to and what we've been used to for years and years and years. You know nobody likes to lose this cool out of their community because it is their community. Small rural schools have not always been in trouble. Bill lay of the Farmers Trust and savings bank a Buffalo Center lives in Lakota and was a school board member there in 1960. He remembers building in addition to the Lakota school because of the need for more space. But he also says the board realized the baby boom of the 1950s would not last forever. We even felt at that time that down the road that is not going to last because the farms are getting bigger. They're not having the young people stay on the farms. This has been going on for quite a long time and knowledge you sense a farm a session of the last few years has really really taken
hold and it's right in the small small town. When a merger with another school failed in 1976 Karen David's concern about a lack of competition in coursework in Lakota began sending her three children to Buffalo Center at a tuition cost of over $2000 per child. She and other parents vowed to change the Iowa law that restricts the crossing of district lines. She finally won her fight this February and Lakota was ordered to pay her tuition. But two of her children have since graduated in the third only a first grader when she change schools is now a soft more. The battle has been long and hard with emotions running high on both sides. We get the phone calls to 3:00 in the morning are nice little notes in the in the mail telling you what they thought of you about moving or opposing different things that the school was doing at the time. As in many reorganization abates students can be both the beneficiaries and the victims. Just looking for a good education they can sometimes feel as if they're being pulled
in two different directions. I do feel like I'm in the middle that some people and their kids. Take it I'm behind you know like it's. Saying all this but. I feel pressured sometimes. Some educators claim legislative incentives encouraging mergers and sharing programs plus stricter educational standards are slowly strangling many small Iowa schools. They say legislators are skirting a political hot potato. Why don't they just come out and say you know we don't want the small schools you know instead of forcing new regulations and new standards on everybody why don't they just come out and be upfront and be honest about it instead of trying to go through the back door and try to kill us you know to kill the small school. The long term future of the Lakota school is uncertain. A new superintendent was hired last fall and next year 55 of the 900 students plus two teachers will transfer to Buffalo Center. As for the townspeople they say only time
heals old wounds. The education problems that faced a quarter are now being confronted in a number of other Iowa communities where parents are trying to get open enrollment for their children. But I was not alone in this battle. States like Arizona and Vermont for example have been through similar circumstances in both of those states have laws allowing open enrollment and several other states like Iowa currently have open enrollment bills ready to debate in their state legislature's open enrollment is just one of the education issues we'll talk about tonight with our guest there Senator Larry Murphy. He's a Democrat from Oelwein He's chair of the Senate Education Committee and representative art Olding a Democrat from Clinton chairs the House Education Committee will be questioned by David yaps and political reporter with The Des Moines Register and by John McCormack. He's a columnist with The Burlington Hawkeye and other Harrison newspapers. Senator Murphy what is the. One or two things that you see coming out of this legislative session that will have the greatest impact.
On I was school children. We talk. Variety of school fish and season hundred million dollars for teachers and and I guess at this stage in the session what do you see coming out that's most going to affect or change will have an impact on direct impact on on I was school children and the two major ones is the funding bill reflecting what we're trying to do in terms of attracting quality teachers to teach aggression I will. The second one is is what the blurb here at the start of the program in terms of what I call the relationship between parents students community school boards business groups within those communities and those that changes structures has reflected the drop in the population have kids in school it is a figure I've used very often speeches in the impact hits more and more at one time the state we had 51 percent of population appear. You know the population of parents were parents with kids in school. Now we have 20 percent. So in essence what you're doing is is there's a relationship there has
been altered drastically where you have a relatively small minority of population. Ask the total population to make a tremendous investment in a very small group of people within a population center so I think you know the relationship between those various groups on the one hand and the policies that we pass this year dealing with those relationships and one impact and salary. Mr. Ali the same question What do you see coming out of this session all this talk of aid and so forth. But what do you see coming out of this session that will have the biggest impact on I was school kids. I would agree with his assessment on the one hand we're going to take some very significant actions to first of all to attract good teachers to retain those teachers and provide some sort of a system of incentives to keep them fresh and good and innovative. We are also at the same time going to be enacting what I think is going to be the beginning of a series of measures that are going to bring about some changes in the way we do schools in the state of Ohio. Some additional efficiency standards for example and some higher standards of performance that we're going to
require of our schools in response to what I think is sort of overwhelming evidence that the the the structure of the schools have sort of all grew in the ability of Iowans to support them in their present form. I think we need to maintain the quality. And yet to reform the structure somewhat how soon will the parent be able to see this in the classroom and we talk about hiring teachers or talking about efficiencies. Is there some lag time how soon represent a void do you think. You know we're going to see that and I was schoolhouse. Well some of these measures are going to take some time to be put in place and then some additional time before their filth. That's one of the things I think the features of education it takes a long time between the time you actually do something and the time we're actually seeing to see some effect that some of the things that we're talking about restructuring that he has for example with some of the old visions some of the provisions dealing with phantom students that are going to be in effect I guess I'm assuming that we're going to pass them. They will be in place
and effect next year. It may take a couple years to actually get them all functioning. What do you even expect to buy with a hundred million and a new teacher by a guy who additional teacher money guy going to hire more teachers and better teacher or you get paid more money to the teacher you have to get two points first of all in essence one hundred millions reflection of what I call market forces. Every other state we've fallen drastically in teacher salaries. Likewise in terms of measures most other states require additional things for their teachers for the additional money. I will by every measure that we have has done the best job consistently through last two decades. So in one sense it's basically me the market force in terms. Secondly approximately half our teachers are going to retire in the next 15 20 years. And as you look at. The gap within the teaching force. You have a big block of people in there. You are 15 20 25 year experience region and you have a big gap between that in the first second
third fourth with your teachers to minister in order to cure something. Probably I've had teachers tell me that the thing that they'd like to see bored in additional pay would be an additional person in a cup class to an aide who would take care of all of that nose wiping tying and or velcro fastenings whatever that is how they go. And for you to teach your app to do more professional things. Has that been thought about then the Tolly certainly has and it will also be addressed I think if you look at even some of the core proposals of the government relative to the Carnegie Commission. CARNEY Foundation reports in the home with reports and these are things that we have been considering even before the governor's message deal precisely with that not so much relieving teachers from tying shoes in and I think this sort of inherent in the job. But I think when you talk about treating a teacher as a true professional person by giving them some input into their own profession and some ability to help
participate in some of the decisions that affect their profession I think that goes a long ways in to enhancing the satisfaction of people all on this question of losing qualified teachers about teachers leaving because of low pay. Why why are school boards providing incentives for early retirement just to get rid of higher paid teachers so they can save money by replacing them with that coops. Is that going on in the state. It is going on and we have even encouraged it by by allowing certain mechanisms that they would have the resources to do that. And it's true there are shortages in certain areas and it's in those areas the schools are not attempting to and I'm here I'm not getting to the $8 an hour but I'm beginning to wonder if I get paid after they get that why why us old folks necessarily get pushed on the ash heap. Maybe we still have a lot to contribute I mean I had been taught that we should raise the age of retired are no mandatory retirement schemes these are what we have in place
are encouraging us for retirement quite frankly they are economic measures they are means for exactly as you said encouraging older higher paid teachers out of the profession to allow younger less well-paid teachers in as a matter of reducing the sum of the cost part partially so that we can have resources to redistribute within the cell Resource Center more if you have something to say on that just yet on that I think there's basically two types of older teachers. There's the ones who are burned out. They want to get out. In our system to not let them. The other ones and that's where within the some of the Senate bills and in the task force that we want to look at when Carnegie teachers are even in that system 15 20 years olds who want new professional journalists and I just want to follow up. Senator Murphy. The There's a real war going on at the Capitol in the sea between the Senate and the governor. Primarily over appointments as I talk to teachers around Iowa they all say you know we hear this talk about higher pay and more money and we heard it for
years and nothing ever happens. Is there a new sense any danger to the school proposals that we're talking about here that could get caught in the cross-fire that's up there. I guess I want to get that cynicism out there among the teachers that you're not really going to do it. Is that hundred million dollars going to wind up in their paychecks at this point in the process. There's still a danger that not Hampton and the reason is is you know the war that you attribute to it I think it was issue were it from my perspective you know the governor's office is taking a very strong line in terms of what what he wants in his education package what he wants in his tax package the process calls for compromise canceled for dialogue. He's got to accept the legislature legislature's agenda as well as part of the process or schoolteachers spending that raise I would want to Karla Yes Jon that dollar back that they at the top of the program wait we had a quote for them asking you. Why don't they. The legislature just come up front and be honest about trying to kill off the small
schools that you know have lighting pussyfooted out of regulation to try to strangle it is that a valid question and I think it's a question of the question that is being addressed in the General Assembly right now I think we are very close to doing that. I don't why you are you. I don't say that there are too many to small school they should be closed. I think in my opinion and in the opinion of a growing number of people in a General Assembly we cannot justify 5 4 and 36 school districts in the state of Iowa. The problem is however identifying which ones we can justify and what we do about them once we have identified them is not quite as simple as you might think but we are looking at a number of things that would impact on this. Plus the department has is going to be presenting a report to us next October to do that very thing and I think that it will be a very high item on next year's agenda. A part only you mentioned earlier a couple of things the by way of efficiencies flush those out specifically what are you looking at to accomplish what Mac's talking about
here closing schools merging making the more efficient you mentioned. We just took off the the things that you think the legislature will do specifically to make schools more efficient. Well one thing that we're looking at very seriously right now even to include in this your bill in fact it is in our bill relates to fans and students and I will. Because of the Foundation plan the way it's set up to cushion declining a roll of the earth for a significant number of there's a lot of money that's in the school district budgets because of cushions for declining enrollment and thirty eight thousand one hundred thirty two thousand we use a device called phantom students too to accomplish that that's very widely misunderstood. Get rid of those when you are attempting to get rid of the concept and to regain some of the money that the concept represents that is going to bear on the fears in not just of small this which are there a lot of very large districts that have a lot of phantom students and while these declines occur there are those who were once there but the district still gets to count for a number of years in
order to augment their school late. Why do they have faith that some people propose always things to get what is the question of the length of the school day this week and the school year. That was back in the old their agrarian economy about nine months 12. Senator Murphy and that's where phase 3 on the salary package deals. We start off of course you know. Sauber in terms of specialized courses that that you can target a particular student groups. Likewise the districts have alter their schedule going from our classes 40 minute schedules going to 60 cycles that sort of thing. To squeeze in more classes with less staff you know what that does the quality of education is a really really serious question. So I think you know the answer. You know the thing you have to be careful we talk about efficiency is what do we do the quality of education and the one
thing in terms of before we focus totally on the size of schools look at the structure of education. You know sister you know we spend 60 million dollars a year in transportation for school systems and we spend four million dollars a year for public transit as a state for serving the elderly and in the rural areas. One thing that we mentioned earlier that we want to touch on here before we get out of the things is home the schools educating children in the homes which is a volatile issue an emotional issue but. Overall in the overall scheme of things in making Iowa's school system more efficient. Really how important is that. We're talking about relatively very small percentage of Iowa families who want to educate in the home so is that one of the major things you're considering. Representative Ali it's a major thing that we're considering largely because as you said it's a very emotional and very volatile issue I don't think that whatever we do with the home schooling issue is going to have a significant very on the overall quality of education of the half million kids in school or in through school districts but it does have a
significant impact on those on a small number of people who wish to pursue it. It's something that we are approaching we are attempting to deal with something that quite frankly gives us a lot of discomfort. A lot of problems in dealing but we are going to attempt to deal with it. We passed a bill out of committee yesterday in the house that would grant parents some rights in educating their students home if they would agree to do it under our conditions in other words if they would agree to allow school districts to monitor the progress in the face feel the school districts feel that insufficient progress is being made there would be some ability to intervene and require some alternatives. We have not made a constitutional decision but we have made a political decision that we are willing to allow people some latitude in becoming a legal issue in some states a lot of selection that looks at what's being taught as secular humanism by
whatever the problem for the Iowa legislature. It's not a problem I think is a national problem terms that court you know I understand some school districts are jerking some of the books off the shelves right now I think the debate system is one of those because the legislature have any at all in the selection of textbooks relationally over them and you know I would not anticipate any I would not like as long as we're talking about emotional issues going to get one more out of the way and that's open enrollment which would allow students to select which school they want to go to without having to pay tuition to cross over the boundaries. Are you going to pass anything out that your son's got to builders do variations Arts Committee bill deals with the districts that are incredibly in trouble in terms of standards with the open enrollment bill that we have the Senate is now open rolled the bill. Wide open for visitors of all size likely to pass will be ringing up Monday. I'm not sure there's much more support we had 17 votes of Ford last year
and I would expect to be closer. But doesn't that SAP districts which aren't up to standards I can see. College bound students gravitating toward the districts that will better prepare them. What does that leave the other districts that leaves them with students who want vocational courses. My view on that is it's been a balancing act all along. We sacrifice quality education for people who cared about education their kids in order to upgrade the district there's districts that are holding students hostage because their property is in their district. If I could just interject a house is not quite as enthusiastic about that concept but we are doing literally I want to go back to a question about efficiencies that I asked you earlier I mean are there any other things you can see coming out of this session the legislature make school districts more efficient. Well the things that we are doing with that with some of the open enrollment of some of the provisions to kind of you to do some market forces but not in that key is not so much for efficiency but for productivity. What I'd like to tell you to take a broader view here for a minute. What
what Will what's the long range view where you headed Well education look like in say 10 years we've mentioned a couple things here this evening. We probably have bigger districts will probably have younger teachers they'll be paid more they'll probably be a longer school day. What. You know what's going to look like in 10 years what's a school and I will look like and keep in mind that education in general is a very conservative institution. Changes come very slowly very gradually and I don't think that that's necessarily bad in 10 years. You may not see any great dramatic changes but I think as you said some of the biggest changes were likely to see are going to come just in this session I think you are going to see teachers better paid more professionalized occupation. So if you look in your crystal ball what do you see what I would like to see in 10 years is basically elementary school districts feed into regional junior high and senior highs. I'd like to see the transportation systems that incorporate both metropolitan public transit and
school transit to serve both the rural elderly and have full day kindergarten every day. I think that's a trend I'm not persuaded. I think you'll see pre-kindergarten targeting areas where gold has higher quality teacher and how you got to tell what he got higher quality teachers. What about teacher evaluation. You working on anything. We've taken some measures in that regard already we have beefed up the training requirements for people who have the requirement of evaluating teachers. There are requirements for teacher evaluation procedures that are currently in the statute and are also in the new standards being developed by the department in our enhanced tell you get all meet Thanks to all teachers should be drug tested. The legislature going to go along and Summers opinions about the attorney general should have a first. I don't I don't think that that we're at that point. I don't necessarily think a teacher needs to fear notice and I think there are some constitutional issues that need be considered.
Senator Murphy can real quickly what what guarantees are you going to offer the taxpayers of that they're going to get more for their money in the Senate we've got a total licensing bill which in essence creates takes the sort of moves in the department commerce along with medical exam or see other professions and the boards and within their borders and I think is in for in essence what you have a certification teacher training program in a lighting mechanism where you have to pass a series of exams or or meet certain criteria the license for acts of state played a buzzer I would have to buzz a great here because class is out. Time is up and thank you very much Representative Foley and Senator Murphy for being our guest tonight and I will press next week I will press will be back at his regular time we'll be back at 7 o'clock. Next Sunday night. And we'll be talking at that time with the two newly elected chairs of the state political parties there Bonnie Campbell chair of the Iowa were Democratic Party and Mike Mahaffey who chairs the Iowa Republican Party for panelist tonight David Epstein and John Connolly Aidid Board thanks for joining us
tonight. Major funding for Iowa press was provided by friends of Iowa Public Television. The.
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- APA: Iowa Press; 1424; Education. Boston, MA: Iowa Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-37-85n8px3g