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Why Iowa Senate’s private school boost is bad for IKM-Manning, other public schools

If the state shifts public funds to private or the voucher system, we will have to look at adjusting staffing and programming

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miller trevor 21-02-05s

Trevor Miller

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the article “School Fight” that was published in the Carroll Times Herald.

In the article, Senator Craig Williams called out IKM-Manning staff and the district for allegedly “misinforming” their students and community members. As IKM-Manning is a strong innovative district with great programs that will continue to look at options/programming that are best for our students to be ready for life after high school, I contacted Senator Williams for an explanation of his comments.

Senator Williams apologized for using IKM-Manning in the article. He indicated he has had numerous calls, texts and emails from across the area regarding schools statewide. We had a good conversation and, even though we do not agree on SF159 (school legislation that passed the Iowa Senate), we both heard each other and were civil and respectful during our conversation.

As superintendent of IKM-Manning Community School District, I feel that SF 159 is an important discussion for all stakeholders. Senator Williams did commend IKM-Manning High School English teacher Jill Johnston on having her class read the entire bill and ask questions regarding the bill. One of our students asked: “If I go to a comprehensive school and get a voucher to go to a private school and have money left over after high school, I can take that money to college. But if I am at a high-performing school I do not have that option. How is that fair?”

This is a great question!

If passed, this bill, with all eight sections as presented, will create even greater inequity between districts — both public and non-public.

An issue around SF159 is school choice. I understand school choice and providing parents with options: In Iowa, we do have school choice in the form of open enrollment. Parents can submit applications to their resident district before March 1 to request attendance to another district. In the event of a good cause, they may submit applications at a later date.

Currently, many concerns exist regarding SF159 passed by the Senate. The House is taking more time and has split the bill into multiple categories and is looking at each section closely.

Everyone should consider sharing their thoughts and concerns and continue talking with their representatives.

During this unconventional year, I would like to go a different direction and praise our school systems for providing education from August through the present day in various modes: online, hybrid and in person. At a moment’s notice, our school changed modes by having students in and out of the classroom due to quarantine or isolation.

During the first semester of 2020, IKM-Manning students attended four days in person while our teachers and support staff worked all five in order to provide one-on-one time for our remote learners. On that fifth day, our teachers prepared remote learning for all students, met with remote learners and provided additional help for all. In addition, that preparation has allowed us to minimize snow days by offering remote learning opportunities.

The 2020-21 school year has not been perfect, but we continue to grow and adjust to changing times. If it were not for our dedicated team of educators, this year could have been more challenging for our students and families. Our mitigation efforts, social distancing and mask mandate have allowed us to be on-site and keep our students and staff as safe and healthy as possible.

Our team is amazing!

By always doing what is best for the students, our teachers, paraeducators, cooks, bus drivers, administrators, administrative assistants and the rest of our team deserve recognition for their efforts during the pandemic! IKM-Manning will continue to promote all the great opportunities in public education. We have been recognized by the state numerous times for our STEM, academic and activity programs.

As a public school, IKM-Manning welcomes all students regardless of need and utilizes our resources to provide them with the best education.

If the state shifts public funds to private or the voucher system, we will have to look at adjusting staffing and programming.

All educators should be honored this year!

Instead of funneling funds away from public education, our governor and our legislature should be willing to provide the best state supplemental aid possible to show appreciation for our public educators, to allow for additional programming, to provide raises for our staff and to continue the great Iowa tradition of providing the nation’s best education for all students.

I am hopeful that our representatives will do what is best for our students and fund public schools and not funnel funds from public schools.

Trevor Miller is superintendent of the IKM-Manning Community School District.

(1) comment

Libertarian Will

I guess I am on the side of free choice here. The right to a Free Appropriate Public Education is an educational entitlement of all students in the United States, guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The act states: The "free" public education means educational services must be provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge to parents except for fees that are charged for all students." I understand the pressure this puts on public schools but what was promised was a free education not necessarily an education in a school run by the state. The state puts mandates on private schools that they must meet and if they provide that service better than a local state run school, I think parents should have that choice. Teacher Unions have done some very good things but some of the bad are protecting lazy or bad teachers and promoting salaries way above the norm for people of similar education and experience in most communities. This bespeaks of entitlement and brings with it resentment in the local communities.

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