Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

Local News

March 20, 2012

Public education facing challenges in Appanoose County and state of Iowa

CENTERVILLE — Ways to fund and improve public education in Iowa continues to present challenges to both state politicians and educators.

In Appanoose County, the Centerville Community School District has decided to close the Cincinnati and Mystic Elementary school buildings and cut back on personnel in order to cover funding deficits.

State politicians representing Appanoose County, Rep. Kurt Swaim and Sen. Mark Chelgren, were in Centerville Saturday, March 17 to attend the second Legislative Coffee at Chariton Valley Planning & Development Council of Governments where they discussed public education. Ironically, students outnumber adults 15-8 for the hour-long meeting.

Rob Busch, Centerville Community School District business administrator,  said the district is closing two school buildings and cutting staff members. He said the district needs to see more support for allowable growth and transportation from the state.

Not only is the Centerville Community School District the third lowest in per pupil valuation per student, Busch said, the district is also below the state average per student in PPEL amount.

"And PPEL usually supports your programs, your infrastructure and your technology programs," Busch said. "I think we need to do as much as possible for education."

Busch said he recommend the Centerville Community School District Board raise property taxes.

"So I'm obviously going to see a lot more people complaining now that I have recommend that," he said.

Rep. Swaim said education needs to be personalized to each student and parents need to get more involved in their child's education. Iowa's public education system needs to get students on a career path as soon as possible so they can develop a "skill set," Swaim said.

Last week the Iowa House of Representatives passed an education reform bill 53-46. The House bill provides for competency based education that provides more personalized instruction, expands preschool from 10-15 hours per week, restores teacher development, puts students on a path to college or skill-specific trades and gets parents involved.

The bill now goes to the Iowa Senate. Swaim said he sees some common agreement between the two chambers on education reform.

Chelgren said money is one issue with education, but so are political promises not delivered and actions.

"A few years ago, we gave you a four percent allowable growth, but we didn't fund it," Chelgren said. "On top of it we had a fifteen percent across the board cut. Those are the types of things that actually cause more damage then they solve."

Chelgren said the Senate is working on a fully-funded 2 percent allowable growth in education and give school districts confidence that they can make long-range plans because they know the money is there.

Swaim said the time to reform education is now and politicians "need to put our money where our mouths are."

The third and final Legislative Coffee is Saturday, April 21 at 10 a.m. at Chariton Valley Planning & Development Council of Governments in Centerville at 308 N. 12th St.

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