Interesting Comparison …

In case you didn’t see this recently in the Des Moines Register, here is an article I thought was very interesting.  There is MUCH rhetoric about schools and what they are and aren’t doing compared to previous years (decades would be more apropos).  I haven’t checked the data – but one would think the Register did its due diligence before publishing – and the sources are all solid (see end of article).

For those of us in the schools, perhaps the most interesting data points are those dealing with the changing demographics in Iowa over the past 20 years, e.g., minority population, non-English speaking students, and increase of students on free/reduced lunch.  These changes are challenging – but challenges are really opportunities in waiting.

Interesting data … “numbers are numbers” so if you get a chance, read and interpret for yourselves …


Iowa schools: Are they better or worse off?

How do Iowa students today compare with those 20 years ago?

The Des Moines Register took a look, comparing school funding, academics and student demographics.


Fourth-grade reading 

  • 1992: Fourth in nation
  • 2013: Eighth in nation**

Fourth-grade math

  • 1992: Second in nation
  • 2013: Fifth in nation

Eighth-grade math

  • 1996: First in nation
  • 2013: 10th in nation

Graduates pursuing post-secondary education or training

  • 1996: 72 percent
  • 2014: 81 percent

Dropouts in grades 7-12

  • 1996-07: 2 percent
  • 2012-13: 1.9 percent


Public school enrollment

  • 1993-94: 497,000 students (non-public enrollment, 45,000 students)
  • 2013-14: 478,000 students (non-public enrollment, 32,000 students)

Minority public school students

  • 1997-98: 8.2 percent of students (Non-public schools, 4 percent)
  • 2013-14: 20 percent of students (Non-public schools, 13 percent)

Students learning English in public schools

  • 1993-94: 3,785, or 0.8 percent, of students
  • 2014-15: 26,990, or 5.3 percent, of students

Students receiving free or reduced lunch, an indicator of poverty, in public schools

  • 1993: 120,847, or 25.4 percent
  • 2014-15: 195,817, or 41 percent

School district size

  • 1997-98: 11 percent of students attended districts with fewer than 600 students; 54 percent attended districts with fewer than 2,500 students
  • 2013-14: 12 percent of students attended districts with fewer than 600 students; 49 percent attended districts with fewer than 2,500 students


Iowa public school appropriations

  • 1993-94:  $1.3 billion of state aid to school districts ($2.2 billion in today’s dollars*)
  • 2013-14:  $2.7 billion

Portion of the state’s general fund

  • 1993-94: 37.8 percent
  • 2013-14: 41.9 percent

Per-pupil state public school cost

  • 1994: $3,406 per student ($5,617 per student in today’s dollars)
  • 2015-16: $6,446 per student

Per-pupil expenses

  • 1993: $5,070 per student ($8,361 per student in today’s dollars)
  • 2013: $10,313 per student

Average teacher salary

  • 1993: $30,760, 32nd in nation ($50,730 in today’s dollars)
  • 2013:  $52,032, 25th in nation

DATABASE: Iowa school funding by district 

*Inflation adjustments using the Consumer Price Index.

**Rankings include multiple tied scores

Sources: Iowa Department of Education compiled statistics; The Des Moines Register archives; U.S. Census Bureau; NAEP state average scale scores by grade and subject, rankings have multiple tied scores; Condition of Education reports from the Iowa Department of Education

Really????? …

Yesterday morning I received an email regarding a proposed action of the governor … click here to read the entire press release from Iowa Senator Joe Bolkcom. To make things simple, here is a copy/paste of the release.

“This July, when Governor Branstad vetoed the $56 million, one-time funding compromise for Iowa’s local students, he claimed Iowa couldn’t afford it.

“This July, when Governor Branstad vetoed $2.5 million in one-time funding for Iowa’s community colleges, after failing to provide any increase in on-going funding, he claimed Iowa couldn’t afford it.

“This spring, when he failed to continue the Iowa student tuition freeze helping make college more affordable, he claimed Iowa couldn’t afford it.

Today, however, after large corporations lobbied him for a $37 million, on-going tax cut that legislators had rejected, Governor Branstad says Iowa can afford it.  Furthermore, he says he doesn’t need the Legislature’s approval to do it.

“The agenda for the October 13 meeting of the Administrative Rules Review Committee reveals that the Branstad-Reynolds Administration is proposing a rule change to exempt consumable supplies used in manufacturing from the Iowa sales tax.  If the Branstad-Reynolds Administration does not withdraw this rule, it will take effect on January 1, 2016, even though this $37 million annual tax cut has never been approved by the Iowa Legislature.

“This rule would change more than 15 years of existing policy.

“I believe it is illegal for the Branstad Administration to use the rule making process to create a massive corporate tax giveaway without approval by the Legislature.

 “I believe such a substantial change in tax policy must first be approved by the Legislature.  Two years ago, the Branstad-Reynolds Administration agreed with me.  That’s why the Administration drafted SSB 1242 in 2013 for the consideration of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  It failed to advance out of committee. It is outrageous that after acknowledging two years ago that this change required legislative action, the Governor and Lt. Governor are now attempting to get it done by bypassing the 150 members of the House and Senate.

“Governor Branstad is skilled at getting what he wants. Unfortunately, what he wants is to give millions to large corporations and pay for it by vetoing investments in education.”

Okay, Senator Balkcom is a Democrat – and we all know partisan politics is alive and well in our great state … but his points certainly made me think.  Is our governor really concerned with public education?  However, moving at least a bit away from partisanship, yesterday in the Des Moines Register the story was also told … click here for that story.

In an earlier post I stated my belief the governor really is an advocate of privatization of schools – or put another way – the dismantling of public education.  I also find it ironic (or perhaps morose) that in the same week the governor signs an executive order regarding bullying in schools (click here to see the executive order), he seemingly circumvents the legislative process in order to get his way.  Wow is about all I can say.  Also in an earlier post I made the connection of our governor seemingly wanting unbridled power, much like a king or dictator.  Nothing in the last 24-48 hours has made me think differently.

Geez … I’m certainly understanding of wanting to make Iowa attractive to business and industry as we all benefit from a solid, thriving economy.  However progress in this area should NOT be on the backs of our kids in schools – and from my seat that’s exactly what the governor is doing.