DES MOINES, Iowa -- On Tuesday morning, young students sat in a row on the floor showing their reading mastery of the book "First Day Jitters." Their principal at Des Moines' Edmunds Elementary School, the district superintendent, and the governor praised their improvement. But later in the day, a state senator who wants to become the next governor questioned whether improvement can continue if a return to guaranteed funding increases does not.
Governor Kim Reynolds shared figures that show 70% of kindergarten through third grade students in the public school system met or surpassed statewide reading goals. That is a three percent improvement during the 2016-17 school year. The governor said, "When you look at the amount of resources, the new money that went into education...I think it demonstrates it is and will continue to be a priority for this administration."
This comes at a time when Republicans, who hold majorities in both chambers of the legislature, have pushed for changes in funding for public schools.
This year's yearly per-pupil increase of slightly more than one percent won't keep up with inflation. But they have added more than $150 million to fund a new program that pays some teachers extra to serve as mentors to other teachers.
Reynolds maintains the new strategy, at a time of tight budgets, is paying off, as evidenced by the increased reading scores.
Democrats, like Des Moines State Senator Nate Boulton, a candidate for governor, have alleged Republicans have been under-funding schools. Boulton praised the creativity of districts, but doubts that creativity can make up for smaller guaranteed funding increases in the future. "When you start doing that, you have larger classroom sizes, you have teachers having a harder time identifying the students that are struggling with reading, identifying the student that is struggling with math and other specific areas of education," Boulton said.