OSKALOOSA – Mahaska and a few Marion County residents cracked open the hard eggs for the state legislature panel at last weekend’s Eggs and Issues.
One of the hot topics at hand was education. In a back and forth exchange, former educator and UniServ Teachers Association Director Suzy Card brought forth the discussion to Sen. Ken Rozenboom, Rep Dustin Hite and Rep. Holly Brink. Card’s concerns stem from Senate Study Bill 3080 and House Study Bill 598, which both address classroom behavioral issues and violence towards teachers in the classroom.
“Here’s another symptom you’re trying to put a band-aid on and not addressing the cure,” she said. “I hear story after story about teachers getting punched, getting bit; associates are getting punched, getting bit. The issue is that the mental health of some of these kids are not being met.”
Card brought up several key issues that she found with the bills from classrooms being cleared when a child is having a violent episode, to all the parents of children in said classroom being notified when a child has an episode. Card encouraged the panel to have a subcommittee look into the bill with teachers alone to gain their thoughts on the bills and classroom management.
“As a parent, when you find out that happens the first thing you are going to say [to your child] is, ‘I don’t want you hanging around Kenny, cause he has fits,’” she narrated. “Now you’re alienating the kid who has a mental health issue.”
Rep. Holly Brink was the first to respond to Card’s concerns, explaining that a subcommittee convened Feb. 5 to discuss the bill and issues in the classrooms directly with educators and administrators. Brink said the feedback they received went both ways on the argument of who gets removed from the class when educators are dealing with violent outbursts, the child with the outburst or the other students.
“This is a huge issue and it’s not going to be a one size fits all,” Brink said. “We had a discussion of is it more traumatic to clear 19 kids and leave one or is it better to remove one, and there is difference of opinion on that. One individual said, ‘do you know how traumatic it would be for that child or the kids to sit there and see one child be removed. A teacher says do you know how traumatic it is for kindergarteners who just spent all this time working on this amazing project to send home to mom and they had to clear and watch that project get destroyed. There’s a lot of things that we have to think about.”
Card said the solution to the problem boils down to money. In response, state legislature tossed around several numbers back and forth regarding past increases and decreases to justify their proposals, however, Card stood by her statement and said it isn’t enough.
“I’m not very satisfied with the response,” she said. “Funding public education is important. [Those increases] are not keeping up with the cost of living, you can look at all those numbers they threw out. They went back to 2010, that was a global recession, and economic crisis. If that’s your only grace in trying to make an excuse for not funding education then I can’t respond to that because it’s so sad.”
Today, Senate Republicans passed a 2.1 percent increase in K-12 education funding in a 31-17 vote. This number differs from the 2.5 percent increase proposed by Gov. Kim Reynolds and House Republicans.
According to Legislative Services Agency, the state cost per student is $6,880. An increase of 2.5 percent would impose a $172 difference, bringing the total cost per student to $7,052. A 2.1 percent increase would be $144 more, bringing the total to $7,024.