Iowa’s workforce must be prepared for the jobs of the 21st Century and our schools are the key to building a highly workforce. Every student should graduate with the skills necessary to land a good job or continue their education after high school.
Iowa has always prided ourselves on a quality education that our children deserve. At a composite ACT score of 22, Iowa continues to be near the top (3rd national) and above the national average in college readiness.
However, achievement results have remained stagnant and in some cases mixed. Decreases can be seen in 2013 student performance in eighth grade reading and math. Yet, there was an increase in 11th grade performance in reading and math.
The fact that achievement has not declined can definitely be looked at as a positive since the makeup of Iowa’s classrooms is changing. The number of students on free and reduced lunch has dramatically increased. Children living in poverty tend to come to school not ready to learn or have to overcome several changes just to be a functional learner.
In 2013, 41% of the public student body is eligible for free and reduced lunch, an increase of 8% in five years. The number of students who are English Language Learners (ELL) has doubled since 2000.
These are all challenges that Iowa schools face as we try to build a strong highly skilled workforce for tomorrow. However, the number of classes taken by students through more challenging AP courses, which allow college credit, has increased.
Iowa law requires the Legislature to set State Supplemental Aid (SSA) about 18 months in advance. Setting state school aid a year in advance helps school districts plan their budgets based on funding provided by the state.
For the 2014-2015 school year, the state cost per pupil is $6,366, or an increase $245 per student from the previous year. State school aid is like a cost of living adjustment of education spending to ensure schools do not lose ground from one year to the next. Currently, The current House Majority Party refused to set allowable growth for the 2015-2016 school year.
The 2014 Kids Count survey showed Iowa now third best in the country. Part of the reason for Iowa’s rise is that Iowa showed gains in more children attending preschool. According to the survey, Iowa is ranked 13th in the nation for education, with 48% of its children age 3-4 enrolled in preschool (about 42,000 for the last 6 yrs.)
The Iowa Senate approved a bill in 2014 to provide a preschool expansion incentive and address preschool administration costs. Unfortunately, the Republican controlled House did not follow.
In 2014, Iowa did pass bi-partisan funding for English Language Learner (ELL) grants to school districts with the most extreme challenges of these types of students, including the highest percentage, the highest number of students, and the highest number of diverse languages.
Federal programs do help before and after school programs to address the achievement gap, but it is not meeting demand. Previously, Iowa had additional moneys in their state budget for this area.
How to find out more…
Website for Early Childhood Iowa: www.earlychildhoodiowa.org/
ELL Taskforce Report Nov. 2013: www.educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/
Overall Iowa Kids Count Report: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/7288-