A paltry raise for our schools

The Iowa Legislature last week, with the concurrence of Gov. Reynolds, allowed for a 2.3 percent increase for K-12 schools for next fiscal year. That comes after years of increases in the range of 1 percent, half the rate of inflation, which have put a lot of pressure on school districts and teachers. 

Minority Democrats urged a 3 percent increase to make up for underfunding in past years. 

The GOP proposal will cost about $90 million more. The Democratic proposal would cost an additional $43 million.

The state budget has been a mess because of Medicaid privatization.

That put the budget in the hole annually by $100 million. Lots of cuts were made, and the governor says that the Medicaid budget is stabilizing. Hence the raise for public schools early in the session, unlike previous sessions when superintendents could not plan because of political indecision and gaming.

This year is a predicate to the 2020 election year.

After gutting public employee bargaining rights, Republicans know they have some ground to make up with teachers and rural communities — where the school payroll often is one of the few in town. 

This proposal won’t cut it.

Republicans claim that they are spending plenty on education as our test scores erode and businesses complain that high school graduates can barely complete a sentence.

State university appropriations are down 30 percent over the past decade. 

The Iowa Tuition Grant, which supports students at private colleges, hasn’t kept pace since it was created decades ago. 

Meantime, those colleges are cutting programs across the state. Iowa Wesleyan in Mount Pleasant could close next year absent manna from Heaven.

Iowa State University used to be the leading land-grant research university in America. It’s not anymore, having become a tool of Koch Industries and the chemical cabal who now fund its most important programs in genetics and ag markets.

We can do better. 

We should. 

But we won’t. 

We talk a good game on education, but we lost our leading status years ago. 

We won’t get it back with annual appropriations that require shrinkage.

Full of it

President Trump was offered a briefing on a deal reached among congressional negotiators that will fund border security in hopes of avoiding a government shutdown. He said he didn’t want to hear about it, and chose instead to go on a conservative TV talk show. He was in El Paso, where the Republican mayor opposes further border wall construction and notes that crime is at its lowest point since 1993. 

“He’s full of crap, even if he is a Republican,” Trump said of the mayor.

Such a gracious guest.

The Democrats offered up to $3 billion in border security, including $1.3 billion for fencing some 50 miles — not the 200 miles Trump wants. The problem is that no border congressmen, Democrat or Republican, want that much more border wall. They’re the ones who live with it every day. And yes, so does the mayor of El Paso.

And so do we. Storm Lake is majority immigrant, we believe. Our crime rate, like El Paso’s, has declined by 27 percent over the same period as the mayor cited. 

In El Paso and Iowa, it’s not a wall that keeps us safe, it is smart policing where immigrants with or without papers are the eyes and ears of police.

The best way to promote public safety, increased wages in Storm Lake and more jobs is with a comprehensive immigration reform that gives the undocumented a pathway to citizenship after paying a fine. 

And, we need to set up a system that recognizes labor needs in industries like agriculture and food processing that depend on immigrants. 

But that doesn’t sell as well as the fear by creating a lie that El Paso is a crime zone and pathway for drug runners and terrorists. 

Just who is full of it? Who should we listen to on the border: A president from a golden penthouse in New York, or a Republican mayor from the Borderlands?

Art Cullen is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the Storm Lake Times and the author of “Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper.”

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