Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Conversation with Senator Jeff Danielson

It has been a few weeks, but I had the chance to sit down with Senator Jeff Danielson on September 19th to discuss a variety of issues that are facing not only the Hudson Community School District, but school districts all across Iowa. 

At the time of our conversation, we didn't yet know for sure what the Governor's Blueprint for Educational Reform would include, other than some very general themes.  With the release of the blueprint yesterday, the conversation around education reform is definitely picking up steam.  Now that we know specific recommendations, the conversation will need to focus on how we can pay for these reforms!  There is no doubt that it will come with quite a price tag.  If the last legislative session was any indication, this will be a significant debate.

From our conversation, it was apparent that Senator Danielson was (and still is) very sympathetic to the educational challenges that face our state.  As one example, during the last legislative session, he was in support of an allowable growth model of 2%.

As I mentioned in a previous post, now is a great time for all of us to visit with our local legislators about all of these very important issues. If you have comments about the education reform plan, make your voice heard!  As we all learned yesterday, the proposed plan, if enacted will be a seismic shift in education policy in Iowa.  Almost all of the proposed reforms will require a change in legislation, and our lawmakers need to hear from us. 

Senator Danielson was quite well informed about the Hudson Community School District.  He asked good questions and was very interested in hearing about the impact of zero percent allowable growth on our school district, and how the budget guarantee had a negative impact on local property tax.  He took a substantial amount of time out of his schedule to meet with me and asked great questions to ensure that he had a total understanding of the issues that we are facing in Hudson.

As we continued our conversation, I wanted to ensure a consistent message was being shared with all of our local legislators:
  1. Modified Allowable Growth. Some of the rules and constraints on the use of this funding has made it very difficult for school districts to adequately serve the At-Risk population. This has the unintended consequence of becoming a program designed toward response instead of prevention. We are of the belief that it is much better, and cost effective, if we can use preventative measures in our work instead of response when something becomes a problem.
  2. Education Reform. Undoubtedly this will be a huge topic of the next General Assembly. 
  3. Unfunded Mandates. I explained how unfunded mandates are having a very negative impact on our ability to educate students, and that every time an unfunded mandate becomes law it has the effect of diverting money from some other purpose in our general fund. I shared that we can't do everything in education with fewer and fewer resources every year.
If you are interested in hearing more from Senator Danielson, he has accepted an invitation to attend our board meeting on November 21st. Please plan to attend.

Well, that about wraps it up for today.  Some of you may have been hoping to hear my thoughts and comments on the Education Reform Blueprint, but I am saving that for next week.  On Wednesday I will have the opportunity to attend a meeting with the AEA 267 Superintendents in Clear Lake.  Our guest speaker for the day is Education Director Jason Glass, who is expected to take questions about the plan.  I am seeking more information before I comment further (although I did agree to an interview with KWWL yesterday).  If you are interested in joining the statewide conversation on the blueprint, you can follow along on Twitter, just use the hashtag #IAEdFuture and you will be able to hear the latest!

1 comment:

  1. I have read the Governor's plan and I am anxious to hear your take on it. It sounds like you had a productive conversation with Sen. Danielson. I had a chance to visit with him last week and was impressed with his questions and viewpoints on education.