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Killing the cash cow


There is liberal, there is conservative and there is just plain wrong. Legislators are increasingly falling into the third category. Consider an all-critical business issue before the Legislature: education.

At issue are two education bills – one Republican, the other Democrat – that don’t go far enough to adequately fund Iowa’s universities, community colleges and public schools. Both plans are ill-advised and, moreover, anti-business.

For the last century, the foundation of Iowa’s reputation has been its educational system. For years, the state led the nation in virtually all aspects of teaching its young to be independent, critical thinkers. We still lead the nation in many aspects of education, but, sadly, we’ve let our schools erode to the point that many other states have caught up with – if not surpassed – our system.

Any CEO will advise it’s foolish to jeopardize your cash cow, even if it’s causing budgetary problems at the time. Savvy business people forge on and ensure its long-term success.

The education bills focus only on the short term, and don’t take into account the millions of dollars the Iowa’s school districts have lost over the past several years.

How is education the state’s cash cow? In a state with limited natural attractions such as mountains and oceans, we have to be particularly clever to attract businesses and the people who come with them. High-quality learning opportunities and an educated populace are attractive to potential employers; throw into that equation short commutes and clean air, and we have a fighting chance to compete on the world market.

Without it, we’re just another run-of-the-mill state. “Come to Iowa where our education is somewhat adequate” just doesn’t have a ring to it.

There is some truth to the argument that schools lack accountability. But we have yet to see a model that successfully addresses accountability issues for school districts. This could be an opportunity for some bright educators working with the state’s universities to find the solution (not “a” solution). Testing students to measure improvement is only a small part of that equation. Too much emphasis on that pushes educators into teaching their charges how to take tests, not how to think.

And let’s not go down the ever-tired path of saying that schools should be run by CEOs. They have skills to offer, but most are profit-driven. That’s not the goal of Iowa’s educational system.

With calm and clear minds, legislators need to listen to our educators, and provide what it will take to not just maintain, but bolster, our cash cow. Or we better find a new plan to promote our state. How about reverting to “Where the tall corn grows”? That’ll bring ’em in by the droves.

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