Legislators are only human, too, and I get it, I do - politics, agendas, constituent demands and a stubborn person or two in a position of leadership can effectively block progress.
Patience is supposed to be a virtue, and like most Iowans, I've tried to overlook the utter failure of our statehouse to achieve an agreement on funding for schools this year.
(I was about to say "simple agreement," but I've been in this business too long to believe that anything is simple in the political process.)
This is a travesty, and the leaders of the legislature should be ashamed of themselves. They have put their own political interests ahead of those of our children, and for that, Iowans should have no patience.
I'm not going to sit here and bluster about how we should throw all the scoundrels out, because, by and large, I believe the people we elect are well-intentioned and committed to doing their best. I know and respect the representatives and senators of our region.
Watching the workings of our state government, it seems that a few people in positions of power in each house and party leadership detemine what will and will not be debated, blocking what they personally do not like or feel would disrupt the process. Years leading into major elections are seldom expected to see much real progress, as parties focus on posturing and insults thrown across the aisle.
I don't believe we need to throw out all of our elected babies with the grungy bathwater of this disappointing session, but I do think that Iowans should expect a legislature that is responsive to hearing the issues that the Iowa people are interested in, and one that can be expected to get its basic business done efficiently and professionally.
The chasm between those who want to offer a lot of new money to schools and those who want to offer very little isn't unexpected by anyone. It's nothing new.
But why is it so hard for the two parties - the two houses - to negotiate a reasonable compromise in between?
Education is job one for Iowa and should be for its leaders. Setting school funding is supposed to be the first priority of a session. This should have been decided in January - not four months or more later.
Here's how ridiculous it all is. The state requires the school districts to complete and certify their own budgets for approval from above, which they dutifully do, no excuses, right on time, year after year. But the state itself can't make up its mind on its own budget and on school financing, and its deadlines sails by ignored and unmet.
The policy is supposed to be that school funding decisions are set two years ahead so schools can have some idea in crafting their own budgets, compensating staff and investing in new materials and equipment. Not only has the legislature failed to meet its deadline for a decision this year - it's already missed the deadline for next year!
You know there's a problem when our leadership violates its own law.
If you think all this means just numbers on a balance sheet somewhere, think again.
In Storm Lake, plans had to be scrapped to hire some new teachers, needed as student-to-teacher ratios in certain sections have gotten too high.
That's right, the legislature just cost us teachers.
Too many kids per teacher stresses the educational process, and may cost kids the individual attention or extra help time that they need. Bringing in aides helps, but certainly isn't the whole answer.
The legislature has not just inconvenienced school boards, they are having a direct negative effect on our classrooms, and that cannot be tolerated any longer.
It might have even been better to give a very stingy increase to schools, than to hem and haw and do nothing for months. At least the districts would have known what they had to deal with. Now, they have to assume zero growth, and some may well have to cut teachers and programs because of that uncertainty.
Tell an out of work teacher that political leverage is more important than compromise. Tell the parent of a fourth grader who is struggling to keep up in reading in an overflowing classroom.
Where is the governor's office in this mess? Or the head of the Department of Education? Why have they not stepped forward to provide real leadership to get this resolved when it should have been?
I do understand the difficulty with making funding calls ahead of time. It is hard - make that nearly impossible - to accurately determine revenue a year or two out. My purpose isn't to trash lawmakers. They have a hard job and as a session drags on it keeps them from family, other careers, farms. Nor am I going to complain about the session overflowing long into overtime, or the cost this sticks the public with. There is little choice - decisions must be made.
But schools are simply too important to allow them to be at the mercy of politics.
How about this for a policy? If for any reason a legislature is unable to set the school aid amount by the appointed deadline, let the amount automatically revert to a 2.5 percent increase for that year - a modest figure yet enough to get schools by. That would take the pressure and politics off, and ensure schools would have an answer in time to budget.