January 2021 Government Update by Ji Yeong I, ISU, and Catherine Miller, UNI

17 Jan 2021 3:36 PM | Wendy Weber (Administrator)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) statement on the events that took place at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th:

We are deeply disturbed and saddened by the recent acts of terror at the U.S. Capitol that continue to reverberate across this country. Hate and insurrection have no place in government, communities, schools, or classrooms.  We have witnessed a challenge to our democracy—a democracy that has not treated historically excluded people and communities with equity, dignity, and opportunity.  

As educators, we embrace the responsibility to create and implement systemic change to support students and provide them with the knowledge and ability to make sense of our world, and to analyze and critique information as active participants in democracy. We believe in and commit ourselves to supporting teachers, schools, and districts to ensure that students flourish and have opportunities to learn.

The recent events are a sobering reminder of what is at stake and the work that lies ahead. As educators, we have an obligation to be catalysts for the needed changes.

As mathematics teachers we teach more than mathematics.

In the Governor Reynold’s “Condition of the State” annual address on January 12th, she outlined four priorities regarding education:

  1. School-work pathways: The governor said she wants to set an expectation for all high schools to establish school to work programs throughout Iowa, knowing that not all students will go directly to college upon graduation. 
  2. F2F Instruction: Governor Reynolds asked the legislatures to propose and pass a bill that requires all schools to provide students with an option to go to school five days a week face-to-face, similar to the option of attending school online five days a week.
  3. School choice: The governor wants school choice to be an option for all students and families. She wants to see open-enrollment as an option in all districts and provide avenues for public charter schools where there is a need for an option. She also recommended creating education accounts for students who are trapped in schools that are “failing” so that they might be able to attend private schools.
  4. School Funding: The governor emphasized that it is critical to have a robust public school system and that funding must be maintained for education and schools despite budget shortfalls due to derecho, COVID, and other factors. She also emphasized that quality education must be provided regardless of a family’s income and zip code. There was no mention of funding private schools beyond the suggestion of creating education saving accounts for students in “failing” schools.

Regarding COVID vaccines, the governor said that distribution would increase rapidly.

The Republican lawmakers, who have the majority in both houses of the legislature, have previewed their agenda for the upcoming session. There appear to be three things that will be promoted.

  1. As soon as possible, pass a law that requires all Iowa public schools to offer face-to-face instruction, with no waivers to do otherwise,
  2. Allow school choice to be paid for by public funds. This has had several names over time, and not succeeded in recent legislative sessions. You may remember the move for a voucher system that would allow parents and guardians to send their children to private schools and tax monies taken from public schools to be given to the private schools attended by these students. This will be revisited and likely to pass given the composition of the legislature and would most likely be signed by the governor.
  3. More tax cuts appear to be on the agenda. This would result in less funding for public education.

Since there will be a change in the presidency and cabinet soon, no new actions are happening in the federal government now. There is an active bill in Congress to amend the Higher Education Act related to forgivable federal loans and grants service requirements. The bill calls for active duty service members and their partners to still be eligible for repayment if their teaching commitment is not fulfilled due to relocating for the service. This bill was filed in February 2019 and had bipartisan support but has not been brought forward for a vote.

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