By Beth Strike, Central Rivers Area Education Agency
In my role with Central Rivers Area Education Agency, I get a front row seat to the hard work our local teachers and administrators are doing every day. Our local schools are stretching every dollar in their budgets to make sure that our children get the highest quality education possible in a society that demands more and more of them. The school leaders I know are working tirelessly to advocate for reasonable increases in school funding from the state by sharing the impact of what’s happening to our classrooms without it. But too often, their voices aren’t loud enough to be heard by those in decision-making roles.
Hoping for strength in numbers, earlier this month over 150 superintendents from across Iowa joined together with Area Education Agency staff to meet with legislators at the Iowa State Capitol. The group had a handful of key priorities, among them asking for adequate increases in state funding, additional support for the growing mental health challenges that many students now face, and addressing the gap in funding for school districts with large geographic territories who incur additional costs in busing. I witnessed many productive and respectful conversations between the legislators who made time to attend and the school and AEA leaders who participated. Still, the question lingers…will it be enough?
In reality, legislators expect school leaders to advocate for students. We got into this business because we care deeply about every one of our state’s students and we want to preserve Iowa’s tradition of providing a high quality education for everyone who lives here. Do you know what has a much bigger impact? When a parent picks up the phone and advocates on behalf of their local school. That’s an attention getter.
A group called Parents for Great Iowa Schools spent time this past month making the rounds to many communities to share information on current state legislation affecting Iowa’s public schools, and engage parents, community and business leaders in advocacy. As a non-partisan group, their mission is to ensure that district stakeholders have the facts and can make informed decisions when it comes to voicing an opinion. Learning more about this important group is one way to get connected and make your voice heard in support of education. Another way is to simply pick up the phone and call your local school superintendent. Ask him or her what you can do to advocate for K-12 education. Why? Because without parents, our voices just aren’t loud enough.
Beth Strike is the Director of Creative Services/Communications with Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA). She can be reached at 319-273-8222. Central Rivers AEA serves over 62,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.