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School board choose priorities for 2019 Legislature

July 19, 2018
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

As a member of the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB), the North Tama Board of Education have selected priorities they wish to see the organization focus on in the 2019 legislative session, hoping to see continued advocacy for TLC funding, equal school funding, sufficient state aid and position sharing.

Each member of the Board selected four resolutions that were discussed in 2018 Iowa Legislature, working together to narrow down to four resolutions they felt most strongly about. The selection process was simple as the board members present-Valerie Bradley, David Calderwood, Doug Dvorak and Rod Zobel-had chosen mostly the same resolutions. While other topics such as Mental Health and Transportation were dicussed, the Board is only able to send four reccomendations to the IASB.

The first resolution is Teacher Leadership and Development, specifically in support of continuing to fund Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) programs across the state. North Tama has implemented their current TLC program for two years and has seen a difference in teacher and student learning.

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"We are a district that strongly believes in teacher leadership and we have a strong teacher leadership program that involves high-quality professional development, but also learning through our mentor/mentored relationship," North Tama Superintendent David Hill said. "We have a student success coach and instructional coach that work full-time to help teachers be as effective as they can."

TLC programs are funded through a specific categorical funding from the state. While Hill and the Board value the program, without the funding TLC would not be sustainable over the long-term at North Tama, nor other schools across Iowa.

The Board's second choice is School Funding, but specifically an issue of inequality across the state of Iowa, according to Hill.

"The point that really stood out to the board is the point about equalizing per pupil funding," Hill said. "Most people in Iowa believe that you simply count your students, then your funding comes on a per student basis to be equal. In concept, that is correct, but in reality for the past 40 years there's been a $175 difference between half the districts in Iowa. North Tama is part of that bottom half that doesn't receieve that difference per student."

Last session, the Iowa Legislature gave districts in that bottom half an extra $5 to reduce the difference and will be done moving forward gradually. Total equity at this rate would take 34 years, which is why Hill and the board would like to see more progress on equity for all school districts.

"The way I look at it, North Tama has been shorted by millions over the years and that is not equitable," Hill said. "All we seek is equity and believe a student living in Clutier, Dinsdale, Buckingham or Traer are worth just as much as a kid elsewhere in that state. Making up for lost time isn't realistic, so our emphasis is to make up for lost ground and reduce the gap."

Next was State Aid, a topic likely to be popular with school districts across Iowa as state funding as decreased in recent years. Each year's Supplemental State Aid is announced in January as schools put together their budgets over the winter and have them in place by April to be implemented in July.

"Having state aid that is sufficient to keep up with cost increases the school has is what we seek," Hill said. "Our employees also generally deserve a raise and keeping up with health insurance cost. Another point is to make sure the state determines what the supplemental state aid level is going to be in a timely way to allow us to plan. We don't want surprises down the road."

Finally, members of the North Tama Board wish to see Operational Sharing continue. This sharing allows for certain positions to be shared between school districts not only to reduce costs, but the state also provides incentives in funding to cover so many students per shared position. For example, North Tama currently shared Hill as Superintendent with Gladbrook-Reinbeck, their Transportation Director with Hudson, and Curriculum Director also with Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

"At North Tama, we share staff in several positions, which has been very beneficial for us," Hill said. "It's helped us to reduce cost and the incentives to share have been very beneficial. Sharing allows for funds to cover additional students, with our current sharing covering 16 students. If we would lose that, right now it would cost the district $123,000."

The state allows school districts to share positions equaling up to funding for 21 students. While North Tama is always looking to increase it's sharing, Hill also feels it's best that the position be "the right fit and make sense for the schools involved."

The four resolutions will be submitted to IASB to be tallied with priority choices selected by other school districts involved with the organization.



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