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:

Parents for Great Public Schools

This upcoming Tuesday evening, January 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the school board room, parents of the Iowans for Public Education will headline the Clinton PTA meeting agenda.  Their mission is below:

Iowans for Public Education is a grassroots movement to protect Iowa’s tradition of quality public schools. We plan to achieve this by—

• Defending against legislation that poses a threat to public education in Iowa
• Educating Iowans and their political leaders about issues affecting public education
• Providing tools, resources, and support for community action on these issues

Defending and supporting public education is a nonpartisan mission, as a strong public school system benefits us all. We welcome people from across the political spectrum who value Iowa’s rich tradition of high quality public schools, and we will embrace political leaders from any party who support our mission.

Please consider attending this meeting.  These parents are passionate about supporting our kids!

To join the closed discussion group, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/360981620961306/.

School Starting Times, Transitional Kindergarten

There has been much discussion in our school district, community, state, and nation about the recommendation by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to have middle school and high school students start school no earlier than 8:30 A.M. The research on the sleep requirements for teenagers included discussion on the readiness of elementary students to learn earlier in the day.

Although the perfect school schedule does not exist, I do feel that the overall consensus in these conversations is to move our elementary school starting times earlier and move the secondary school starting time close to the recommended time of 8:30 A.M.  The district will need to work with the transportation department to finalize these times later this spring.

Also, the Clinton Community School District is discussing adding “transitional kindergarten” as a service to students and parents.  The following are two factors that support “transitional kindergarten”:

  • The age difference between a “young” and an “old” five-year old’s life experiences is about 16%, greater than in any other time in K-12 education.
  • The kindergarten curriculum that we experienced has now been pushed down to the four-year old’s preschool experience.  Today’s kindergarten classroom is much more academic, increasing the importance of readiness to learn.

I want every student on the first day of first grade to be at grade level or above, ready to learn with success.  “Transitional kindergarten” students will be taught the same kindergarten curriculum without the pressure of being proficient in all the standards.  However, if a student in transitional kindergarten blooms during the year, and is meeting or exceeding benchmarks, they will be recommended for first grade based on academic indicators.  Those transitional kindergarten students that are not at benchmark at the end of the year would enter kindergarten the next year as leaders in their class.

We will inform you more about these two changes as we plan for the next school year.

2018 Iowa Legislative Session

The 2018 state legislative session is upon us.  We have several opportunities this year to advocate for legislation that will support public education as a backbone of our future workforce in the state of Iowa.  However, it is critical to make sure our legislators are listening to our concerns.

This will be a tight budget year for the state.  However, the legislature and governor have the opportunity to support education without taking additional resources from the FY2019 budget. In the next several weeks, I will provide points to support public education in Clinton and across the state.  Your voice is more powerful than mine.  Legislators view superintendents as part of the education lobby, but your voice is viewed as a parent, taxpayer, and voter.

I blogged on Iowans for Public Education earlier this year.  Iowans for Public Education is a group of parents and community members that are being proactive on legislation affecting public schools.  You can find information on their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/iowans4publiced/

The following is the list of House members on the Education Committee:

The following are the members of the Senate Education Committee:

Please become active and part of the solution to enhance and support the Clinton Community School District.  Issues and points to support your opinions will be provided in future blog posts.

An Argument to Balance Recognitions

I had the pleasure of having a discussion with a community member about a month ago about the recognition of the accomplishments of our school by both students and staff.  This person talked about the recently developed Clinton High School Athletic Hall of Fame, and the amazing players, coaches, and administrators that have been appropriately recognized.

The discussion moved to other areas, such as academic achievement, lifetime achievement, community service, and providing today’s students with alumni role models that have gone above and beyond.  Clinton High School has had many graduates that have served our country, including some that have made the ultimate sacrifice.  We have had graduates that had prominent roles in the nation’s health and medical careers.  We have graduates that excelled in the professional fine arts.  We have alumni that have served in government, working to make a difference in people’s lives.  This list could go on and on.

Should the Clinton Community School District develop a recognition program, highlighting areas in addition to athletics?  The answer to this question comes down to our values as an academic institution.   I look forward to these discussions and the possible implementation of a recognition program that values academic and lifetime accomplishments.




Best Time Schedules for Kids

At the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) meeting this past month, part of our discussion was about best practice for school starting times.  This conversation started with some of my elementary PLC visits where teachers feel that our district is missing key instructional time with our elementary students by starting at 8:40 am.  These PLCs would like to start the classroom activities between 7:50-8:00.

There is research that supports that teenagers should start school later in the morning.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to give students the opportunity to get the amount of sleep they need.  The reasons are rooted in biology.  As children approach and go through puberty, their brains begin producing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin on a delayed schedule, making it difficult for them to feel tired before 11 p.m.   It is recommended that teenagers get between 8-10 hours of sleep.

During the SIAC meeting, parents of the committee mentioned other advantages of flipping the elementary and secondary starting times.  Elementary parents that begin work at 8:00 will have easier drop-off and supervision issues of their children in the morning.  Also, families where an older sibling is a high school student, the older child can drop off elementary age brothers and sisters since the high school schedule would start later than the elementary.

I have asked SIAC members to discuss this with their neighbors and co-workers and report back at our December 4 meeting.   The members of the SIAC committee are Arica Arensdorf, Jorge Parra, Brian Kenney, Candace Seitz, Dan Boyd, Dana Albaghdadi, Deb Duhr, Diane Honeywell, Janet Sager, Jason Wheat, Jeff Atkinson, Jocelyn Meyer, Josh Bolen, JR Kuch, Jurgen Duhr, Keegan Cassidy, Kristi Cooley, Laurie Reafsnider, Megan Comstock, Michele Terrock, Phillip Swanson, Rae Feddersen, Reginald Hall, Rhett Weis, Ryan Kent, Shawna Kent, Steven Lewis, Theresa Schultz, Wilson Amely, Wes Golden, and Gary DeLacy.  Please feel free to provide your input to any of these members.

Ultimately as we have these discussions, we have a fundamental question to ask.  What time schedule best supports kids?