To my Republican Legislators and Friends

Dear Representatives Koester and Landin,

Dear Senator Whitver and Governer Branstad,

Dear Representative Deyoe and Senator Schultz,

Dear Iowa friends who voted for Republican state legislators in this past election,

I am writing to ask a simple question: why? What is it that we did to make you want to propose the changes you did to collective bargaining?

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2015 in Review

A look at all of the blog posts I made in 2015. Not as much as 2014, perhaps a resolution for 2016... Looking back at the posts, it looks like 2015 was a year frustrated by the conversation around educational funding. It was also a year of learning for myself and my PLC in our work to become better teachers for our students. Take a look: An Update on Iowa's New Start Date - February 14 The Iowa Department of Education and then Director, Brad Buck (now Superintendent of Cedar Rapids Schools), released new criteria for receiving a waiver under Iowa Law requiring a start date no earlier than the week where September 1st falls. This is my analysis of the document.

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Iowa's School Report Card

One of our Governor's four goals is the Best Schools in the Nation. As part of his progress towards "world-class schools," the Governor and the Republican-led House passed an education reform bill in 2013 which led to the creation of the Iowa School Report Card. The Department of Education's FAQ and Technical Guide have several details about the what, why, and how of the report cards. I'll briefly summarize:

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GOP Math on Education Funding Doesn't Add Up

On December 10, 2015, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published a report entitled Most States Have Cut School Funding, and Some Continue Cutting. I discovered it from Scott McLeod's tweet: https://twitter.com/mcleod/status/678953406548082688

According to this report:

  • When adjusted for inflation, the state of Iowa has only increased total state funding per student by 0.04% from 2008-2014.
  • When adjusted for inflation, the current state formula funding per student is 6.2% lower in the current school year (2015-2016, FY2016) than prior to the recession (2007-2008, FY2008).
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Shots Fired in Branstad’s War on Education

I am sorry I have not been posting much. My wife and I moved into a bigger place across town shortly after I returned from my grad school program. Right after we moved, my paternal grandmother passed away and band camp started. We are finally settled in; the kitchen remodel is done, and we have internet! Pardon the sensationalist, clickbait title to this post. I thought I would steal a bit from the Fox News rhetoric to add some irony to the situation.Last week, Governor Branstad decided to blame school district superintendents for what he views as poor performance in Iowa schools. From an article in the Des Moines Register:

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Math on Educational Funding

Our legislature finallypassed a supplemental growth rate of 1.25% on June 5, 113 days later than required by law. Our governor finallysigned this legislation today, on July 2, another 27 days later.

Here is the thing: Not only did the governor veto the $55.7M passed by the legislature as a one-time spend from our state's more than $450M surplus. The legislators hid $50M of Teacher Leadership funding within the School Foundation Aid budget.

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Changing the Conversation

I had an outstanding "last day of summer" yesterday: boating with friends, enjoying the sun, making wood-fired pizzas outside. I wish I had thought to take some pictures. I say "last day of summer" because tomorrow I leave for my first residency semester for my Masters of Music Education program at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. While at this Wednesday Night Boat Party, I had very interesting discussions with my friends and host's parents about how education is changing in Iowa and around the country, particularly in regards to funding. I have been operating in a world where I am surrounded by people that either agree with or are diametrically opposed to my thoughts on educational funding. It was a good experience to get to converse with people whose thoughts are in the middle of the issue and whose stakes are different than my own. My friend and colleague, Pat Kearney, has written quite a bit about the conversation (or lack thereof) that has been going on about educational funding in Iowa. His most recent post talks about our purpose as educators.

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Iowa's 2015 Education Budget

Iowa's 2015 Education Budget is still not settled. As of June 5, 2015, the Iowa Legislature finally passed State Supplemental Growth for Iowa schools. We now await the governor's signature. Let's take a look at what they passed: State Supplement Growth at 1.25%SF 171 originated in the Senate on February 5, 23 days after the governor proposed a budget in his Condition of the State address. This falls within the 30 days required by law in Iowa Code 257 Section 8.1. The deadline for passing this legislations was February 12, 30 days after the governor proposed his budget. Amendments, discussions, messages, and votes appear along the history of this bill which continues well past the February 12th deadline. Most importantly, Amendment H-1009, adopted on February 24, changing state percent of growth to 1.25% from the Senate's original proposal of 4%. Finally, on June 5, the Senate passed the amended version of the bill 45-5 and the House passed it 53-36.

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An Update on Educational Funding and Start Dates in Iowa

I have written, tweeted, Facebook-ed, and talked quite a bit about education in Iowa over the past few weeks. Our governor has started an uproar over school start dates and state supplemental aid, the magical formula for funding our schools. We have still not arrived at a solution, and the timeline is getting tighter. I wanted to write a bit more in the hopes of maybe easing my frustration with it all.

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Funding Education in Iowa

We are in an interesting predicament in the state of Iowa. A 2013 education bill (HF 215) has made several changes to education in Iowa, many of which I detailed in a post for my VanderCook class, Teaching Music in a Common Core Word. One of the changes from HF215 that I did not detail in the post is how education is funded within our state. After the break is a detailed explanation of the new funding formula. To cut to the chase early, the Governor and the House have proposed a 1.25% rate of state supplemental aid. This is an inadequate amount of funding for our students. The Iowa Association of School Boards is advocating for 6%. The Senate has put forth a bill authorizing a rate of 4%.

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An Update on Iowa's New Start Date

The Iowa Department of Education and their Director, Brad Buck, released the criteria necessary for receiving a waiver under Iowa Law requiring a start date no earlier than the week where September 1st falls. On December 12, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad director Mr. Buck to no longer automatically grant waivers of the school start date, a common practice in Iowa after the governor originally signed the law in 1983. I have previously blogged about this decision to begin enforcing the law more than 30 years later.To briefly recap, the governor wrote a letter to Director Buck requesting the IDOE stop automatically granting waivers to school districts applying to start school earlier than September 1st.

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2014 in Review

I know that I am 3-4 days late, but the stomach flu will do that to you. 2014 was a big year for me. I began blogging about my teaching experiences in October of 2013. The spring of 2014 is where that began to pick up as our professional learning community looked into curriculum and assessment and I began my Masters of Music Education program at VanderCook College of Music. Here is a review of all I posted over this past year: Vertical Teaching - October 10, 2013 While I know this isn't part of 2014, it is the only post on this blog that occurred before 2014, and it is a pretty critical part of several of the posts that followed! I discussed the vertical nature of our professional learning community: 5 teachers that teach lessons and rehearse instrumental music groups in grades 6-12 across three secondary schools.

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Iowa's New Start Date

Yesterday, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad sent a letter to Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck requesting that they "no longer automatically grant waivers to the 1983 state law that says school shall begin no sooner than a day in the calendar week in which the first day of September falls." In response to his letter, Director Buck issued a letter to Iowa school leaders saying "Effective immediately, the Department will no longer automatically grant waivers of the school start date..."

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