Letter to the editor: Invest in ALL students, Clark Wicks says

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The Perry Community School District’s certified enrollment is more than 1,800 students, with a 96% graduation rate and daily attendance at 94.5%.

To the editor:

My name is Clark Wicks, superintendent of the Perry Community School District, and I am proud to have served students at five different public schools for the past 44 years. All of my own kids graduated from Perry and earned college degrees. I have grandsons going to Perry, and I love what public schools stand for: Accepting all students, taking on the challenges of a wide variety of academic, social and physical needs.

Perry’s certified enrollment is more than 1,800 students, with a 96% graduation rate and daily attendance at 94.5%. Perry Elementary School is rated as High Performing, and Perry Middle School and High School are rated as Commendable. Our teachers do a fantastic job of differentiating their instruction to create an effective learning culture. All teachers have been trained in Professional Learning Communities (PLC), which dig deeply into student data and analyze the best practices to improve achievement.

Here are a few things our lawmakers should think about before voting for School Choice/Voucher Bill:

Iowa should invest to be the best state for student learning for all. Iowa should invest in:

  • Researching the best instructional strategies and practices.
  • Researching states that have tried to implement such a plan as the School Choice/Voucher Bill. At a glance, few favorable outcomes follow from the type of bill being proposed.
  • Incentivizing schools to implement researched-based practices.
  • A sustainable plan to attract and retain quality teachers. The pool of teachers has dwindled significantly the past few years.

Iowa should not spend taxpayer money to:

  • Shift tax dollars from public schools to private schools. This just creates elitist education for the few.
  • Cherry pick and incentivize the least-challenging students so they can attend a private school.
  • Put money in the pockets of people who can already afford private schools is not effective. This does not improve teaching and learning. It just shifts students from one type of school to another. Sorting and selecting students does not improve the overall education of all students.
  • Fund private schools that will not accept more challenging students.

A Republican lawmaker in the Iowa Legislature is against the School Choice/Voucher Bill for the following reasons:

1. Taxpayers losing accountability. As Republicans, we are always cognizant that the taxpayer is funding everything we do in government and with that understanding we believe the taxpayer has the right to know how their funds are being used. Public schools have many reporting requirements to assure that funds are being used in the taxpayers’ best interest. If individual taxpayers wants to read the annual audit, they can. If they want to dig into many other reports, those reports are available locally or on the Iowa Department of Education’s website. Does that create a lot of work for administrators? Yes, but the public is paying the bill, so that information should be available. I am not confident that information will be available from private schools. The bill actually states that “rules adopted by the department of education to implement this section that impose an undue burden on a nonpublic school are invalid.” Ask public school administrators and teachers about DE rules. They can be burdensome.

2. The education savings account (ESA) program is estimated to cost about $300 million per year by year four. However, there are currently thousands of cognitively and physically disabled kids, teenagers and adults who are approved for services to help improve their lives and the lives of their families, but they are stuck on waiting lists because funding is not appropriated for those programs. Supporting these individuals through community-supportive living programs, job training and other programs that improve their quality of life and their ability to be productive community members is the right thing to do.

Are our legislators investing in quality education or spending money to create elitist schools?

In no other tax-funded entity are citizens/taxpayers allowed to “opt out” and use their tax funds elsewhere for law enforcement, fire department, hospitals, public health and municipal golf courses, for example. Would it seem fair to use public funds to pay for a private-membership golf course? That is what this bill is essentially doing.

The landscape of student demographics with high emotional and academic needs is increasing significantly. Education is not attracting graduates to this field. Time to invest and not spend money

I know of no other public servant in public education who is for this bill. Are you listening?

Let’s work together to create the best public schools possible for 100% of the students getting educated in Iowa.

Clark S. Wicks
Perry

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