Jack Hatch authored the largest minority college scholarship fund for high school students to attend one of the three state universities. Jack Hatch wants more coordination between the city council and the school board to create internships and summer jobs for our students.
Iowa is moving in the wrong direction on education and it affects Des Moines greatly. After national rankings in the top three states, Iowa today is ranked 24th on a broad range of metrics from early childhood education to high school graduation. The picture in higher education isn’t much better when Iowa is ranked with the third highest student debt. The state’s regression on national rankings on education is an astonishing reality for most Iowans who have become accustomed to educational excellence as a bipartisan norm only to see our advantages decline in this decade. Iowans need to understand that our future is directly related to our children’s education. As the largest city in the state, Des Moines can help restore excellence and expand educational and investment opportunities. The City of Des Moines can step up and work more closely with the Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) to ensure our kids have the best opportunity to learn.
There’s no doubt that the State of Iowa and the legislature have provided a crushing blow to public schools by reducing state aid. The lowest average increases in state spending on schools and to the DMPS has come during the past eight years. Any expansion of our universal early childhood education program has been stalled. Our teacher pay rank has fallen to the middle.
Long gone is the class size initiative that made Iowa’s elementary and middle schools the envy of the nation and DMPS have suffered.
The City of Des Moines can help in making our schools better
With the continued reduction of state funding to keep up with expenses, state aid does not recognize the funds needed to reach the student diversity within the Des Moines Independent School District and, as a result, the DMPS has to rely more heavily on property tax for revenue. This failure of the state now requires the city to work closer with the school district to ensure that all our Des Moines students get the best education available. In our schools, we have over 100 different languages and dialects, our minority enrollment exceeds 60%, and our class sizes are larger than ever. The district has over 32,500 students with 38 elementary schools, 11 middle schools, 5 high schools, and 10 special schools or programs. We have over 10 international baccalaureate world schools, 5 turnaround art schools, the only public Montessori school in Iowa, and Central Academy for advanced placement. THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE SCHOOL DISTRICT and the city should be more involved.
Presently, the city council and the board of education have no formal relationship and act completely independently. There is no obligation for the school district and the city to cooperate on anything, the budget, tax revenue, athletic events, job training, or summer work activities. This will now change.
The following are policy areas I will recommend to both the city council and the school board:
- Request that the President of the school board and the Superintendent become ex-officio members of the city council. They will receive the agenda, respond and provide input on all matters on the agenda, provide analysis and research, and share how the city’s decisions impact the schools and the education of our youngest residents. They will be seated at our table and have the right to engage in our discussion; however, they will be non-voting members. When families decide on where they want to live, they also decide on where their children will go to school. The city and school district are tied at the hip and we should be more pro-active in our collaboration.
- Develop year-round internships in city government for students. We will develop, with the school board, student internships for their students in city departments and agencies. In addition, we will request that other local governments establish a robust program or increase any existing internships that presently exist. It is our hope that class credit will be extended, and a stipend provided to all internships.
- Re-establish Summer Youth Jobs at our parks and recreation facilities and partner with businesses to create summer employment opportunities. Summertime is always difficult for schools to keep in contact with its students. It is also the time of year that students could fall into increased trouble. Instead of putting the burden on our police department to deal with the “summertime blues”, we will establish a Mayor and Council Summer Youth Jobs Program. We will solicit funds from private sector employers, local and state employment programs, federal workforce job training funds, and individual donations to create a robust and educational/job vocational summer employment program.