Funding and Flexibility for At-Risk Students—2018 Legislative Priority

Traditionally, Iowa has been a state with relatively low rates of poverty compared to other states.  In 2001, about 28% of students were eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch.  In 2017, this number soared to 41.3%.  For the Clinton Community School District, 60.2% of all our students receive Free and Reduced Lunch.  Also, poverty is no longer concentrated around Iowa’s largest cities.  For example, of the 62 school districts in Iowa that had more than half of their students eligible, 51 are rural school districts.  So how is this impacting funding?

There are two issues with the Dropout Prevention Funding calculation in the state.  First, Dropout Prevention funding is based on total enrollment count, not the percentage of at-risk students.  Second, funding caps range from 2.5% to 5% of the total regular program district cost, based on historical school access to these funds, not based on current needs.

The ability of local school districts to make decisions based on the needs of the students they serve is the premise for increased flexibility in the use of these funds.  The current state requirements limit local school districts, like Clinton, to meet these needs.  Please consider contacting our local legislators about increasing the flexibility of use of these finds to meet our poor and at-risk students’ needs.

Our local representatives are:



New ACT Prep Opportunity for CHS Students

At the Clinton School Board goal setting meeting last fall, the Board indicated they would like more ACT preparation opportunities for CHS students.  As a response to this and using part of the model of the Elliot Test Kitchen in Fort Madison, Clinton Community Schools in partnership with Rastrelli’s Restaurant are providing a new opportunity in ACT preparation.

Starting in March, there will be a four week preparation leading to the ACT test given on Tuesday, April 3.   Here is the schedule:

Sunday, March 4, 6-8 p.m.                   English Review

Sunday, March 11, 6-8 p.m.                Math Review

Sunday, March 18, 6-8 p.m.                Reading Test

Wednesday, March 21, 6-8 p.m.        Science Test

These test prep sessions will be held at Rastrelli’s and they have agreed to provide FREE food during these study sessions.  Prior to each session, students will be expected to attend a session at school on test taking tips for each test and then take a practice test at school.  The Rastrelli’s review sessions will have a teacher go over the practice test answers and explain how each question is answered.

We believe this a great opportunity to support students to do their very best on this college entrance exam.  Thank you to Rastrelli’s and the teachers for providing this opportunity for students.

The Confucius International Education Group

The Clinton Community School District is pleased to announce a joint educational opportunity with the Confucius International Education Group (CIEG).  For the 2018-19 school year, approximately 72 Chinese international students ranging from freshmen to juniors will live at the old Ashford dormitories and receive their educations through Clinton High School.

There has been a lot of planning to ensure that this is a positive experience for everyone involved.  The planning has ranged from staffing, use of the Ashford campus including state of the art STEM classrooms, cultural integration activities, community and staff information meetings, joint use of resources by Clinton Community Schools and CIEG, transportation needs and perhaps using the city busing service, and so on.  We are planning on parent meetings on March 7 at 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. at Clinton High School’s Vernon Theater to provide information and answer questions directly related to  high school students.  As for the community information piece, CIEG and the Clinton Community School District are planning an information meeting and open house on Sunday, April 8 at 2:00 p.m. at the Durgin Educational Center at the Ashford campus. We strongly encourage you to come to any and all of these meetings and have your questions answered.

Personally, the educational upside of increasing our students’ personal background by experiencing  diversity first-hand is beyond my wildest dreams.  Throughout my educational career, I have witnessed the power of foreign exchange programs and the lastly relationships that have been built that stand the test of time.  I believe the relationship between Clinton Schools and CIEG will multiply that positive effect many times over.  The six principles of the Confucius educational philosophy, especially the emphasis on leadership and personal responsibility will make the Clinton School District reflect on our efforts to instill these values in all students.

School Safety

The tragedy at a Parkland, Florida high school last week has refocused the nation on school safety.  I support the current efforts at Clinton Community Schools to ensure that students and staff can teach and learn in a safe environment:

  • The school district schedules meetings with law enforcement four times a year as a district to review current/future concerns and best practice procedures.
  • The school district and the city employ two school resource officers that work proactively to keep a safe school climate.
  • The school district has been trained in ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) intruder training and plans to expand the depth of the training.
  • Each building restricts access inside by secured entryways, requiring identification to school personnel and identification tags for visitors.

One of the major lessons from Florida is that we need to encourage parents, staff, and the general public to inform school officials and/or law enforcement about observed questionable or threatening behaviors.  Parents, please reinforce this lesson with your child.  We need everyone’s commitment for school safety to ensure a basic right for all students.

School Choice

Last week, Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren introduced Senate File 2091, a bill that creates Education Savings Grants that would be available to students who are attending non-public schools or who are homeschooling.  Much of the rationale for vouchers comes from the parents who are paying taxes that go to public schools, but do not benefit from those taxes, because they utilize nonpublic education.

First, one needs to understand that over $50 million in tax dollars already supports private schooling and home schooling in Iowa.  Here is a breakdown of the use of those dollars:  nonpublic textbooks ($650,000), nonpublic transportation ($8,500,000), school tuition tax credits ($11,300,000), tuition and textbook tax credits ($15,200,000), home school assistance support ($2,000,000), nonpublic students using public opportunities ($1,600,000) and community partner preschool ($13,000,000).

Second, parents have many educational options in Iowa today.  Iowa offers open enrollment to other public school districts or to a virtual public school.  There are two kinds of homeschooling:  competent private instruction and independent private instruction.  There are also viable private school systems in the state.

Third, will the same accountability for public school funding be expected for private and homeschooling parents?  Currently, private and homeschooling advocates have lobbied hard for limited or no government regulation.  If they are receiving public funding, I believe private and homeschooling options must have the same government expectations and accountability concerning curriculum, student achievement, and the acceptance of ALL students.

This bill will be heavily debated during this legislative session.  My stance is that competition in schools is good and makes us strive to be better.  However, public schools need to compete on the same playing field.  Therefore the same accountability and educational assurances every public school district in Iowa is required to have should be the same for private or homeschooling options that are receiving government vouchers.

Our local representatives are:



Equity for all Students

Equity is a concept that most everyone agrees is right and just.  However, in Iowa public school funding, two major areas of inequity exist: per-pupil funding and transportation.

The per-pupil funding inequity was created over 40 years ago when the state of Iowa developed a funding formula, balancing state and local revenues for education.  At the time of the creation of this state funding formula, some property rich districts were already spending more per pupil than the new formula generated.  These districts were grandfathered in, with some able to spend up to $175 more per student.  Forty years later, nothing has been done to eliminate this inequity.

In the current 2017-18 school year, some school districts are allowed by the state to spend $6664 per student.  Clinton is allowed $6710 per student, $129 below the maximum of $6839 per student in some Iowa districts.  The $129 deficit per student means the Clinton School District has over $488,000 less to spend on students this year compared to other school districts.

The second major inequity is transportation.  Some school districts in Iowa spend over $1000 per student in a school year to get students to school.  Other districts spend less than $50 per student per year.  Clinton spent an average of $223 per student in the 2016-17 school year.  Transportation costs are paid out of the supplemental state aid per student as described in the above paragraph, ranging from $6664 to $6839 per student.  However, currently some school districts pay $950 more per student in transportation costs which means this $950 cannot be used for teachers, textbooks, technology, etc.

Where a child lives in the state of Iowa should not dictate the funding for his or her education.  Last year, the legislature proposed a bill for a 10 year phase-in to eliminate both per pupil and transportation inequity.  The bill did not move forward due to funding.  Although it is a tight financial year, the amount of money proposed for year 1 of the phase-in was reasonable.  If educational equity is something we can agree on, let’s find a way to begin the process.

Our local representatives are:


SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) is a funding stream which was formerly known as the statewide school infrastructure sales and services tax or as the local option sales and services tax for school infrastructure.  These monies received for school infrastructure purposes are to be utilized solely for school infrastructure needs or school district property tax relief.

The Clinton School District has borrowed against future SAVE funds to build the new middle school, the new Jefferson Elementary, the new Eagle Heights Elementary, and the high school pool and gym addition.  By using SAVE funding, property tax payers benefit from these projects because they are not funded through local bond issues.

Although many facility needs were met in the last decade, some remain.  Clinton High School has some original infrastructure from 1950-1970.  HVAC, lighting, plumbing, electrical, windows, and flooring have exceeded their lifetimes. Parking at several of our school sites needs to be improved.  The third wing of the middle school and a performing arts center were eliminated from the middle school due to budget constraints.

The current SAVE expires in 2029.  Although this seems like a long time away, school districts are losing capacity to bond using SAVE.  Long term facility planning is affected if SAVE is not extended.  The ability to address the concerns in the above paragraph will be difficult without an extension of SAVE.

Extending SAVE in the 2018 session will not impact the tight budget discussions.  The extension will support school facility needs and act as property tax relief.  Please consider contacting our local representatives to support the extension of SAVE.

Our local representatives are: