Friday, January 14, 2011

Education Matters...

When we decided to relocate to Carlisle, it was in large part because of the positive things we had heard about the school district. While every school district these days faces tighter budgets and the expectation to do more with less, Carlisle schools seem to have been able to step up to the challenge of meeting the demands of a growing enrollment while keeping their facilities and services fresh and up to date in the constraints of a tight budget.

During our inquiry before the move we also learned that, unlike Grinnell, Carlisle was able to offer pre-school to every 4-year-old in the district free of tuition thanks to grant funding. For us that means Brea benefits from 4, 1/2 day days of school at no cost to us...a considerable step up from the 2, 1/2 day sessions we would have been able to squeeze into our budget if we had remained in Grinnell where the number of students interested in attending pre-school out numbers the available spaces. Brea's lead teacher, and 2 assistant teachers, are super fantastic. She is excited to go to school every day, and comes home full of stories of what she did and learned. We are so thankful that she has this opportunity and are confident that it's setting a foundation on which we hope to continue to grow a love for learning.

As the district administration had begun the budgeting process for the 2011-12 school year, several updates have been offered to parents over the past several weeks. Yesterday a message was sent out with some disturbing information that could affect the future of the preschool program at Carlisle (as well as others like it across the state) due to a bill that has brought to the floor of the Iowa statehouse. A summary of the Tax Payers First Act can be read here, or you can read the full 59 page bill (with current revisions) here. I've never taken the time to sift through a proposed bill such as this...until now. (A summary of the bill starts on page 48 if you want to skip all the messy, number filled referencing legal mumbo jumbo that fills up pages 1-47.) I must say I'm quite disheartened, and a little pissed off, by what I have read.

To give you the quick and dirty from my perspective:
  • The purpose of the bill is to reduce unnecessary and wasteful spending, refocusing budget surpluses back into tax payers pockets. Which in theory sounds like a solid, responsible plan.
  • Some of the proposed cuts would make sense to just about anyone. Cuts such as reducing the amount of funds spend on state office supplies and travel expenses. Changing state employee benefits to be more in line with a comparable corporate package in terms of employer/employee responsibilities. As someone who manages both a family, and a small business, budget, these reductions make sense to me.
  • The BIG losers in the bill are EDUCATION (across the board from preschool to University levels), human services, environmental and sustainable energy programs, smoking education/cessation programs targeting Iowa's youth, and small businesses.
While many of the programs that could be affected by the passing of this bill are near and dear to my heart, it's the preschool funding that really gets me fired up. If this bill passes it could mean that the preschool programs, such as Brea's, would lose their MAJOR source of funding. And while the bill calls for an increase in the availability of tuition assistance funds, my heart goes out to the families who, like ours, won't qualify for such assistance BUT whose budgets may not be able to cover the extra expense of preschool tuition.

If you live in Iowa, please take time to review the bill. If after doing so, if the proposed cuts strike a negative cord with you as they do me, please take time to contact the statehouse representatives in your district who support this act. Generally speaking Republican reps are supporting, Democratic reps are opposing, but you may have to do a little research to see on which side of the issue your representatives stand. You can also keep up with how the fight to save Iowa's preschools is going here.

As someone who values education and as a Mom, I will be keeping a close eye on this issue. Thank you for your consideration in voicing your opinion as well!



MS said...

I know this is an angry, blanket statement...but that's the Republican party for you: more corporate tax cuts and screw those with lower incomes. They're probably just not working hard enough, right? Ugh. When I heard Branstadt trumpeting how cutting the pre-school program would be a tent-pole of his campaign, I was so angry. I am definitely contacting my reps over this and many other issues (how about the judiciary?).

Anonymous said...

OUr future is in the hands of our children. Give them education that they love and care about and they will take care of us as we age.