Faith is belief without the basis of facts.
That is what the Republicans have when it comes to funding our state’s education.
With a mantra of “limited government” the conservatives like to boast about their crusade to defend the taxpayers and keep “big government” out of people’s lives. All the while, they seem to have Faith that our students will still receive the quality education they deserve, but as faith works, this belief has no factual basis. The facts are that, in order to adequately fund schools, our legislature must approve a minimum of 3% allowable growth to fund on-going school projects—just to account for the cost of inflation. The governor and his friends in the Republican-majority house have been effective in underfunding schools the past several years, allowing them while effectively providing tax breaks and block grants to the largest corporations in Iowa.
The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency has already crunched the numbers for legislators and there is, in fact, enough money to fund education at 4% and help to make up for the fact that schools were funded under 3% for the three 2012—2014 school years. This underfunding compounds and burdens our schools to an extreme degree. Republicans know this, and despite the facts, Republicans have prioritized spending on just about everything else, kept tax breaks for the wealthy, and left education with the bottom of the barrel.
The effects of this abuse of power are clear. Schools are forced to perform a guessing game when it comes to their budget. Most assume the worst possible outcome, 1.25%, and that means major cuts for most school districts.
I, like all people, would love to pay less taxes, but I also recognize my duty to ensure that the children of Iowa are educated enough to be competitive in the world market. What these cuts mean is bigger class sizes, fewer extra-curricular activities and fine arts programs, and underpaying our state’s teachers. There’s only so much less we can give our state’s schools and expect them to function as they should. Conservatives turn a blind eye to these cuts, and yet still have faith that the lack of funding will require schools to be more efficient, but that belief has no factual basis.
What are the facts? Evidence repeatedly shows how extra-curricular activities like music and art increase the reading comprehension and writing abilities of students. Studies have also shown how class size negatively impacts student achievement. These statistics on achievement are measurable, but these numbers are not on the brains of conservative legislators. I have faith that Iowa taxpayers, like myself, would be okay with small increases in their taxes if they knew of the deep and heavy cuts Iowa schools will need to make at 1.25%.
I wish I had faith that the people of Iowa genuinely believed in the trickle-down effect. I wish I had faith that the people of Iowa genuinely didn’t care if our children weren’t receiving a quality education. Unfortunately, I refuse to believe what is not backed up by facts. That is why I ask you to let the conservatives of this state know that they need to obey the law, respect our students, and respect the people of Iowa, by providing adequate funding for schools at 4% allowable growth.
By Ruth Lapointe