LETTER TO THE EDITOR - Teacher funds

Tuesday, October 2, 2001

Before this national tragedy there had been a lot of discussion and no action taken to deal with Iowa's looming workfore crisis with nearly 40 percent of our skilled workers ready to retire. Our state elected officials do have the power to avert this destructive economic predicament if they act now.

Iowa's economic prosperity depends on a skilled, well- educated workforce. We know that the quality of a company's workforce is the most competitive advantage it can have in this new economy. A business' productivity will increase based on the skill level of its workers. Approximately one year of additional technical education past high school will increase productivity by 8.5 percent for a manufacturing operation and 13 percent in a non- manufacturing business.

How does Iowa stack up against the other states? Iowa's universities still have some of the nation's lowest tuitions. Our K-12 school systems are able to pay teachers with a master's degree $2,900 more than a community college teacher. Iowa's community college teachers are paid $4,972 less than the average community college teacher in surrounding states. Yet community colleges are at the bottom of public funding with regard to average state general aid invested per student.

It would be irresponsible to ask for fair and equal funding for community colleges without examining how money impacts students. Test scores and labor market outcomes show that community college students perform at the highest level in the classroom and on the job. There is enough evidence to make sound judgements about which educational investments yield a workforce that stays to live and work in Iowa. To strengthen and improve Iowa's workforce, we must strengthen and improve Iowa's community college funding.

The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future reports that investing in teachers yields the biggest dividends for student success. Community college teachers are not researchers or out of the classroom publishing books. They focus on student success and keep in touch with the real world...

Community college teachers cannot continue to be effective with more budget cuts. They need the resources to teach students the skills and knowledge that will enhance and improve the students' lives. They are being asked to teach a more diverse student populational and also must continually learn new technologies. These demands require well-trained, professional, dedicated teachers that are also sought after by private industry and other education stystems out of state. Unless our elected officials fund a solution to the community college funding shortages, there will be no incentive for community college teachers to remain in the profession or to encourage our young people to become teachers.

Doug Sanders

Director of the Iowa Central Community College Governmental

Relations program and Business and Technology Center